March is the first month of spring, according to the Met Office. The season is well on the way by April, but it can still be rather brisk (i.e. cold) weather. April showers are proverbial, and the poet, T. S. Eliot, refers to it is as ‘the cruelest month’, though quite why I have never really understood. It has something to do with lilac trees. I was married in April, and on coming out of the church we were greeted by a flurry of snow; perhaps that explains why it is so cruel.
Before the new leaves open on the trees, the bird life has started its annual mating season. Snow may still be on the ground, but the lengthening days see the sap rising. The tradition is that the birds select their mates for the year on St Valentine’s Day. Those species who mate for life must forego this one of the spring events except once. In less obvious ways the mammals greet the brighter weather with thoughts of procreation, but as the year progresses their young begin to appear. It amazes me how these creatures bring forth their offspring when the weather can still be very cold; and the food supply is still on the sparse side. It is still a long time until the bounty of ripe crops.
Spring is not my favourite time of year. In spite of the new blossom on the trees, and the buds breaking on to reveal the bright green of the fresh leaves, it never has been. It is a very lovely time of year, but it does not have the sense of content and completion that harvest time brings. It is a time of anxiety – will a late frost damage the apples?- and dashed hopes. Spring can be perishingly cold.
The time of Lent is a sombre time of year; or at least it was in the days when giving up things was more of a practical necessity than a spiritual requirement. With most of the cattle killed off for the winter because with last year’s grain dwindling there was little for them to eat, it was a lean time of year. With the return of Spring there was at least the prospect of the new season’s eggs. Easter eggs go back into the beginning of time. Easter is a pagan festival – the word even comes from the Anglo-Saxon name Eostre, the Goddess of Spring. The reason the date changes is because Easter uses the lunar calendar. The Archbishop of Canterbury is talking of fixing the date of Easter, but I am rather puzzled by this; is Easter solely Anglican festival? There are hints that the Pope might agree, but the Russian Orthodox Church? They still use the Julian Calendar, which was superseded in the West by Pope Gregory in 16th century. It could well take another 400 years to agree a fixed date for Easter.
Spring is the time when boats are put back in the water, or if the boat is too big to spend the winter ashore, they are refitted ready for the long hot days of summer. The lawn mower is dusted down and the coal-scuttle is put away; or it is for me. For most people who lack both a lawn and a fireplace the seasons merge more into each other. Nor should I be talking of burning coal – that so old-fashioned, not to mention positively evil in these carbon neutral days. No, it should be the log basket that I no longer require until the cold days return in the autumn, because wood burning is carbon friendly.
In the steady progression of through the year a lot is happening in the spring. This is my third blog on the seasons; the next one will be on summer.