There’s a new sense of life in the garden today; discernibly so. I had toyed with writing ‘perceptibly so’ but thought that ‘perception’ implied somewhat of an effort, or a concerted focus – and that would betray the ease in which nature is making itself visible, heard and felt on this February Sunday morning.
Before I even get to the various buds, leaves and sprouts on various flora, I’m met with a starling, who flies across my neighbour’s fence, hovers in mid-air – wings blurred in motion – and decides quite suddenly to change tack, and charges off towards the stream.
As it hung there for those fleeting few milliseconds, the warm winter sunshine played its iridescent feathers like piano keys; a hundred beautiful notes were silently heard by the soul of anyone lucky enough to witness this unlikely February symphony.
Sighting a common starling in Britain tends to err on the side of the unremarkable, such is the presence and prevalence of this bird, but for some reason, my own humble garden has always been devoid of Sternus vulgaris. The fact that I have seen one, coupled with the humming bird-esque qualities of its performance, leave with me an impression of experiencing something exotic; and for that, my heart sings.
As the starling flies into the distance, another bird comes into focus, and I gaze at a nuthatch that moves animatedly through the budding lilac bush. Another bird whose colours are somehow magnified infinitely in this unique morning light, the blues, oranges, whites and blacks become blurred visions of perfection that only heighten the belief that nature is putting on a display this morning; small in pomposity, yet enormous in majesty.
February is a glorious time of the year, but also one that is infinitely strange. It almost feels as if you’re straddling a portal of time: a few weeks prior, and you’re in the grips of a desperately cold January with snow, darkness, frost and wind, while the ability to stride forward by a fortnight delivers us into March, and the eternally-renewed promise of spring.
I conduct a casual tour of various pots in the garden, and delight to see not only the bulbs in full voice, but a number of other plants rehearsing their lines, too. The rose that my wife bought me for my birthday back in November is issuing curled red leaves in its pot. The clump of mint, seemingly decimated by the harsh climes of a northern winter, is sending forth new leaves, small, yet assured.
My iberis – such a visually delightful plant last summer – is budding in earnest. Hydrangea bushes and magnolia plants are also issuing life in the form of compact, tight and humble shoots, greens, greys and silvers respectively, all clamouring to be part of the great symphony of summer.
The demands of work, life and modern living, deem that weekends are the only real opportunity I have to observe the garden, until the light returns in full come the summer months. But that periodic check-in also allows the focused observer to notice the subtle changes that are taking place all around them.
Today feels markedly special, and different than before. It’s too soon to say that we have officially transitioned into spring, but for me, it certainly feels as if nature has shaken off the dust sheets of winter and is gearing up to get going in earnest.
I close my eyes, embrace the delicate feel of the strengthening sun upon my face, and start to map the appearance of spring onto the contours of my winter-weathered soul.