Where is the spring? This winter has seemed so long. On the trees, buds haven’t changed in weeks, leaves seem held in impossibly tight packets of suspended animation. Bluebell shoots, visible since December, appear content to stay at ground level now they have reached the light. Catkins hang just as they hung at the start of the year. The wood feels closed – bare and brown and unyielding.
The ground is wet and cold, still covered in a brown mulch of leaves. Most of the green comes from damp emerald moss and the smell is of slow, moist decay. As I walk through the wood today, the soft patter of drizzle becomes heavier. By the time I am half way round, the raindrops are thudding loudly; so loud that at first, they obscure the sound of the roe deer running. Bursting from its hiding place, the deer is followed seconds later by the hare. They bound away together, white rears bouncing between the trees until they are out of sight. Are they yearning for the spring? I come across the place the hare has been feeding – a pile of holly leaves, tough and prickly, plucked from a bush. Surely these animals long for fresh soft shoots of young growth.
Above me, occasionally, a half snatch of bird song. The birds sound out of practice, their throats hoarse through lack of use. But they are trying, exercising their voices again – is this a sign that spring is coming? Is there a warmth in the air? Or am I wishing so hard that I imagine it?
The rain drives me home to sit and wait. For now, the wood is still held by winter. Spring will come to the wood when it is ready. But it will come.