Some lover of nature, humanity, God or all three has set a clump of snowdrops between the fast Eurostar line to France and the old mainline from Ashford to Folkestone. Just a glimpse as we speed by, most will not notice, I too often miss them – but there they are, and beautiful they are, even from a distance. A promise that will be kept.
These, with their rubbish, were at Aylesham station, not far away.
Winter, and I had a window seat on the train to work. Along a quarter mile or so where the rails run near the river it was plain that some trees were not infested with ivy but with mistletoe, not yet enough for a commercial harvest – unlike these trees in Oxford. Has the University or the College considered such an income stream? There was one small clump in a tree above the railway cutting, close enough to warrant a kiss – but Mrs Turnstone was five miles away in the supermarket.
We had an appointment in Canterbury city centre and were almost there when we spotted something white in the tree downstream. Stop. Stare. Stare again. It was not witches britches – air-borne plastic impaled in the branches – but a little egret, shining in the sun. Not long ago a rare visitor to Kent, now almost a familiar friend.
By the time we’d done snapping with our phones, a small crowd had gathered. I hope the sight lifted hearts a little.
After a big Christmas meal among a crowd of adults, some of them unknown to him, 18 month-old Abel was getting restless so he went to the back door and found his wellington boots. It was time for some fresh air.
By the corner of the park he stopped. He pointed at the lilac tree and shook his finger – a gesture he uses if he hears a loud noise like a siren – or grandad sneezing. Grandad’s sinuses were not challenged on this occasion; the noise was coming from the tree: Robin playing his part in the dusk chorus.
Abel watched and listened till Robin changed his perch, then said, bye bye. Off he went into the park and straight up onto the old abandoned railway line. At the top he paused again, listening. Singing close by were a thrush and blackbird as well as another robin. After listening for a while, it was bye-bye to these birds too. We were unable to see them.
We did see the gulls flying below the clouds on their way to the coast: bye-bye to them too.
It was dark when we said bye-bye to Abel, but he pointed from his car-seat to our own robin, still singing, still patrolling his boundaries by street-light. Bye-bye Abel, thank you for listening with me!
Litter-picking is one of those fatigues that children in school resent. One thing to pick up your own litter, another when it comes to other people’s. I try not to be resentful when I do my turn – turning scraps of paper, drinks bottles and coffee cups instead of stones on the beach. But it’s more difficult when it comes to cigarette ends and packets. (GRRRR!)
I tell myself the parable about the son who didn’t want to do what his father asked, while the other just made promises – which one did his father’s will?
But a little reward came my way today. Shining in a ray of winter sun, a very early snowdrop.
And surely better to do the job with a degree of anger than not at all?
The question is Shelley’s and finds its answer in what has gone before in the Ode to the West Wind:
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth …
Spring is here already, waiting for moment to blow her trumpet to announce birth and rising.
For me Winter arrived today when I saw my first redwing of the year, come over from Scandinavia to spend the winter eating berries. My one was on a hawthorn bush. The next movement across my handlebars was a lesser spotted woodpecker. Two good sightings to celebrate winter.