Far Behind?


"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" is not the most profound of Shelley's lines, but you could turn it around, on the evidence of last Sunday (in this eastern part of Ireland anyway) to something like the thought that, in even the worst of winter weather, we get marvellous days of spring. For on Sunday over Meath there were the bluest of skies, brilliant sun making of even the most ordinary trees things of beauty because of their shining bark. And, here and there, was clear evidence that spring was breaking through. The sun made the grass greener, made the leafless dogwood in its great swathes along the main roads a devilish red. And to add an aerial dimension, herself pointed to the blue above - it was not a plane on its way to America, but, she said, high, high, an arrow formation of birds in flight westward. White or whitish underneath, she thought it must be geese. On the ground it wasn't difficult to see the new season breaking through in spite of storms and devilish cold which, at midday, still left ice on the side of the roads. For while the witch-hazel mentioned a week or so ago is now ablaze, there was movement, too among the hazels and the willows. On the hazels, the catkins are just moving into their usual lamb's tails shape. As to willows, there is also movement, again brilliantly lighted by the sun.

It was reassuring that Herbert L. Edlin, the learned, descended to our level: for he writes: "the name pussy willow is loosely applied to a group of shrub and small tree willows that bear short hairy catkins or pussies. The word catkin, derived from this type, means `little cat'; the German equivalent Katzchen and French chaton both mean kitten too . . ." So, some pussies in embryo, more or less, were cut and should be out in a day or two in their deep vase of water. A domestic, comestible, note: some chervil, the best of herbs, planted last spring in a wooden frame outside, with a glass top, had its crop cut to the ground about six weeks ago. The frame faces west and is not overshadowed. Well, the glass on top was, you would swear, being pushed up by the new crop from the cutto-the-ground roots.

The kingfisher was not on his post in the river. Still languishing down at the mouth of the Boyne, his winter quarters. The whole day was brilliant, unclouded sunshine, the blue of the sky hardly flecked by even a pink cloudlet. This was spring-in-winter. In a month or two we will probably have winter-in-spring. That's how we live. Y