I love this time of year. My daughter (she’s 8) would have you believe that it is because it is the season that contains my birthday. Now that I have entered my 40s, and my age will soon be unmentionable in polite society, I hesitate to agree, but I don’t tell her that. Instead I give her a little nod, raise my eyebrows and smile what I hope is an enigmatic smile. No, the reason I love this time of year is the transformation in the countryside from dull, dead brown to vibrant, springing green.
I am particularly lucky in my drive to work. I don’t work where I live; every morning I drive across the countryside between one town and another, and, along the way, I see the seasons change. Back in September, the mists glowed, magical across the vale. Now, the trees are transforming, almost before my eyes, clothing themselves in their misty cloaks of green.
I love the freshness of this time of year, and the transient nature of it all makes it seem so much more precious. In a couple of weeks, all this vibrancy will be over, the fragility will be gone and we shall be into the rich verdancy of summer.
One thing that never fails to surprise is the variety spread out before me. Not a single one of them is the same colour. If I look out of my bedroom window, out at my garden, there is a line of trees – lilac, apple, magnolia and yew, each one putting on its fresh green coat, each one a stunner, each on different.
Funnily enough, the top of the hit parade, for me, is one that isn’t even green. My favourite, the one that makes my heart sing when I see it, is the copper beech. There’s something about them that appeals to me; the leaves, the shape of the tree itself, its overwhelming size. There’s one down at the bottom of my road.
I love the way that, if one didn’t know any better and hadn’t witnessed the coming of spring many, many times, what looks dead, stiff and unmoving as the proverbial doornail, suddenly springs, out of nowhere, into life. The thing that we thought was ready to be chopped down and thrown on the fire turns around and surprises us with its energy, its transformation.
I remember the first time I became aware of the trees in springtime. I grew up in south Devon, in a village tucked deep into a wooded valley. When I was six I was terribly, terribly poorly and spent four months in hospital. At one point, when I was starting to be better, I was allowed to spend the odd night at home, at the weekend. My journey home took me through the hills and woods that covered the land between one valley and the next. One week the trees were winter bare, the next, wearing their springtime green. My mum told me that the trees had done it for my birthday.
They were good at that, my parents. During that time, when they must have been out of their minds with worry, they turned the simple things, the scary things, the hurting things into little parcels of magic. My dad helped me to cope with the removal of forty-four stitches along a scar that zipped me back up by encouraging me to use my new-found counting skills. The thing that marked me, that pained me, turned out to be interesting and absorbing, something to be celebrated, not half so bad after all.
Every spring I am reminded of those stories; the way the trees put out their leaves for my birthday, a poorly little girl of six, the way that one minute it all seems dead and dull, the next full of eye-wincingly bright life. The marvel of nature, stunning in its complexity, beautiful in its display of difference.