Brighter Skies: The First Days of Spring
Coco (one of our two tuxedo moggies) loves the early morning Sun. Throughout the summer months she is up off the bed and on the window sill the moment there is a hint of dawn brightening the horizon, ready to soak it up. Moments later she jumps back onto the bed and whines until we wake-up and open the curtains so she can enjoy the comfort of the bed along with the warmth of the sun on her soft black and white fur. With a cat keen for the pleasures of an early sunrise, summer lie-ins are impossible for us: only in the winter do we get to enjoy a leisurely morning.
One day at the end of February, we experienced the first Coco alarm clock wake-up of the year, but instead of feeling cheated of a few extra minutes in bed before the work alarm went off, we must confess there was a tingle of excitement since it could only mean one thing: the days are getting longer, brighter. It has felt like a long winter, despite the magical snowy days in December and February, and we realised we craved the coming Spring.
The day that followed was glorious – the air was still, the sky blue, and the house shone with the sort of bright early-Spring light that gets you thinking about Spring cleaning. We were even perky during our work days. Everyone on our remote meetings commented on how beautiful day was, and the grumpiness that has blighted many of our co-workers over the dark days of January and early February seemed to have been brushed away as everyone smiled and told of their plans for the weekend ahead.
The weekend did not disappoint. Not only was the sky a clear azure blue with not a cloud in sight, it was finally warm enough to be without a coat (in February! Madness!). We spent the afternoon taking a long walk around Ickworth Park, our favourite National Trust property. We found a new route we had never been on before, a long arch over the Linnet, and circling the property from the opposite side of the valley, through open fields and sun-dappled woods.
We relished the mild weather and our new adventures. The world felt fresh and new, and the worries and claustrophobia that the dark winter months have brought (this year more than ever) was replaced by the sudden rush of freedom and energy.
There is something about that first day of Spring. It’s as though someone has lifted a burden from your shoulders that you’d forgotten was there, or released you from a cage you’d stopped noticing trapping you. You know there will still be some colder, darker days ahead, but this day is a gift. You don’t want days like this to end.
More than any other seasonal transition, Spring feel like a threshold: on the other side of which is a whole year.
These are the days that stay with you. Not the days of remarkable events, anniversaries and momentous occasions, but these days of quiet contentment, filled with ordinary things that are given fresh enjoyment from a new perspective or mindset.
There is more than one ‘first day of Spring’ in the northern hemisphere. 1 March marks the beginning of meteorological Spring, which aligns with our calendar and reflects general temperature patterns, but signifies nothing more; 20 March (this year) is the beginning of astronomical spring, and is the equinox, halfway between the Winter and Summer solstices, as the Earth’s orbit around the sun reaches a tipping-point at which northern hemisphere begins to be closer to the Sun. This is vernal equinox for the northern hemisphere, and has ingrained cultural significance as a moment of new beginnings.
More than any other seasonal transition, Spring feel like a threshold: on the other side of which is a whole year. This is particularly true for gardening. There is still lots to do in the garden during the winter – clearing the remains of last year’s growing, moving or building beds, planting trees, pruning bushes – but Spring introduces some of the most rewarding work: choosing what to grow and where to plant it, buying and sowing seeds, watching the first baby leaves quickly open into the crisp sunlight.
Inside the house, there are other changes. The roasts and stews of autumn and winter are being replaced by lighter fare. We aren’t hugely carnivorous people in normal times, but we always give-up meat for Lent, and we use this time to experiment with vegetarian and vegan dishes for the coming year. Spring ingredients haven’t yet arrived – we’ll need to wait a little longer for the first of the asparagus, rhubarb, Jersey Royal potatoes – but we are finding new ways to use the purple sprouting broccoli, kale and leeks we’re still harvesting.
And Spring Cleaning. Does anybody else feel this, the sudden compulsion to get the house in order as the days begin to stretch-out? Cupboards to be emptied, cleaned and reorganised, drawers to be sorted, piles to be dealt-with. A desire to clear surfaces, dust items, and hoover behind things that haven’t been moved in months.
Everywhere, there is a sense of renewal, spreading from the outside in. As with September, on the opposite side of the year, March feels more naturally a time for resolutions. It is a time to pause and take stock, reassess priorities and make time for ourselves and our homes. To lay foundations and make plans.
It is a gentle transition, too subtle to pinpoint precisely, but if you’re outside over the next few weeks, you’ll feel it: Spring is coming.