Sunday, 9 March 2014

A spring butterfly made of spring sun

As we reach the end of the first week of March we appear to be settling into a spell of warmer and thankfully calmer and dryer weather. The kind of days where you want a t-shirt in the sun but long sleeves when standing for long in the shade. A few adventurous souls, determined to banish all memory of the long soaking winter, have dusted off their shorts for the first time this year, whilst all around in hedgerows and gardens, bees are buzzing, blossom and buds are bursting, and spirits soar at the sight of gold; brimstone butterflies and bank-side celandines. Reptilian beings are awakening; adders bask in sheltered sun-traps, grass snakes hunt dappled waters, my neighbour's tortoise is digging himself from the warming ground, slowly re-charging in the midday sun. 
I have been gardening. Our fence needs repairing; a good excuse as any to get out there and 'tidy up before the boys come to fit the new panels' or generally lift, separate, trim, prune, move and mulch. The energy-boost that spring has brought was just the thing I needed to spur me on with a long postponed job. Replacing a wooden raised bed that had disintegrated through a combination of rot and accidental sitting-on, with another, and redesign the neighbouring flower border. Pausing in my work, part way through this particular job, no doubt distracted by the buzzing of bees in the pulmonaria or the arrival of a cup of tea, I sat a while in the sun, gazing absent mindedly tea-mug in hand, at the mound of soil excavated from within the deceased raised bed. As I gazed a movement caught my eye, and when I looked closer I spied a woodlouse scaling what to it, must have been a sizeable mountain of crumbly loam. I watched as time and time again it fell, all 12 feet a wiggling frantically, and almost cheered out loud when it righted itself and at last reached the peak. 
Behind my left shoulder, where I knew the young oak reached tall and straight to the sky, the robin sang. A sudden flash of yellow, I turn and twist trying to keep it in my sight, a bright male Brimstone; a spring butterfly made of spring sun.
All day the queen bumblebees buzzed and hummed, wolf spiders basked on sun baked stones and fence panels, and the dunnock sang his short phrase and seemed to run out of words. 
I apologised a few times to the earthworms that writhed in the soil disturbed by my shovelling, gently lifting those I could to safety away from the danger of my fork. 
Physical work in warming sun surrounded by nature allowed the brain to rest, rejuvenate, recentre. the sun on my skin felt all the better for the long damp deary days of winter. The direct contact of hands and living soil, of knees and damp ground, of first grass cut scented air and sun-bathed colour that filled my senses, reconnected body to mind and soul to earth and rhythm to seasonal cycles. 
Now it has reached that time of day when the sky is a faded grey, evening blue sort of shade and the trees, still winter-bare, trace black filigree across the soft clouds. 
Colour slowly seeps from fields where fresh furrows run; a days hard labour, a job well done, and from the hedgerows that shiver in the march breeze, where a late wandering bumblebee laments the loss of the midday sun. 
Drifting through the upstairs window, are the rich fluid notes of a blackbird's song.

The week is ending cool and calm, stars emerge one by one in the darkening sky, thoughts turn towards Monday morning hopeful that the sun will shine again neutralising the effect of returning to school or work after a weekend of lazy hours.

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