I spent the early part of March eyeing the pregnant ewes in the field opposite with a kind of fellow feeling… that, and a little impatience. As the month progressed I found myself lingering at the window, hypnotised by the small white dots that began to proliferate around us, endlessly clustering and dissipating, making restless hieroglyphics – the message of Spring writ large across the landscape.
Spring has since profusely, cumulatively, peppered the landscape with a braille of varying scales and densities. Its colours are familiar emulsions: magnolia, buttercup, primrose… but the effect is high pattern – powdery, stippled, spotty, staccato. Its patterns shift impossibly in and out of focus, defying depth of field – impressionist white blossom on the bullace tree engages the confetti of lambs on the hillside opposite us in a kind of perspectival pun, fleece caught on the fence mimics the fuzz of blossom on a distant tree… The subtlest of changes animate this dancing, merging, ebb and flow of yellows and whites – wind through branches, a sheepdog in a field – rendering the Spring landscape alive, kaleidoscopic, a still life with subtly shifting detail.
As if it might somehow pass us by, the approach to every village heralds Spring’s arrival with slow fireworks in the verges: expanding constellations of daisies, slow-exploding dandelions, dewy cow parsley sparklers in the morning sun… flame-yellow gorse flower spreading like wildfire… From the car window, it is a split-second scintillation of white and yellow, familiar but unidentifiable except for the ubiquitous fanfare of daffodils. But on the ground it is a phenologists’ ‘son et lumiere’, a spectacle of succession for the audience with time on their hands.
It is the trees that translate Spring’s passage for the long-distance driver. For a hovering few days, the colour of the rising sap hangs like mist in their silhouetted branches, then like some giant aerosol, Spring diffuses the air with mists, plumes, sprays, blooms. Freeze-frame explosions of blossom transform the trees into beacons, nature’s transmitters, masts… broadcasting pollen in the wind.
Back home, Spring has passed through our uncharted territory with a string of puns and surprises, rendering nature’s invisible pen briefly readable in its wake. Early blankets of snowdrops invoked the metre deep snow from under which they emerged. These gave way to trumpeting daffodils, comic buttonholes of primroses… But still Spring was poking fun at Winter – its light flurries of blossom sending up snowfall, or perhaps feigning the confetti of Summer weddings to come…
It is one long April fool, this season, a phenologist’s teaser.