It feels too early. I’d expect the fruit trees to start flowering around now, but there are leaves unfurling on a number of trees as well – most notably the elders in the more sheltered spots. I can remember springs when there were very few leaves until April and one year, May. Spring did not used to start before March round here.
The garlic is coming up, it too is early. I’d expect to see the first shoots about now, but we’ve got whole leaves out there, and lots of them.
At the margins all kinds of small, leafy plants are appearing. Again, too much, and too soon.
This is a friendlier face for climate change. On the plus side, a longer growing season will take more carbon out of the air. Even so, it is a manifestation of the chaos we are causing.
When talking about climate chaos online I’ve had people ask me what I’m afraid of and what I imagine will happen. I can only assume some people must be really disconnected from the world not to know that change is already here. We have chaos. We have storms the like of which I’ve never seen before at a frequency that is startling. Places that didn’t normally flood are under water.
It’s going to be expensive. My hope is that short term climate chaos will prove expensive enough to focus the minds of people who want to carry on with business as usual. It’s not so easy to turn a profit when you’re on fire, or underwater. I hope that there is still time for a bit of waking up and getting real.
It is the first of October, and here in the UK, there are not that many signs of autumn. Most of the trees around me are still in green leaf – a few have picked up yellow tones. The horse chestnuts are cracking on with things, but this is in no small part because they are diseased. In previous years, their leaves have been down by this point, so they are late in their own way. Their conkers are one of the few autumnal things I’ve been noticing.
Last night was the first evening of the season when I shut all the windows. This morning, I have windows open again. It’s not super-cold, but there has been a shift. I remember camping at a folk festival at the end of September about twenty years ago and having frost on my tent in the morning. Autumns are warmer than they were when I was young.
My rose bush is blooming again. I don’t have a garden, but I do have a collection of pots, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down for the winter.
I have mixed feelings, because of course this is climate change in action, and that worries me deeply. At the same time, I’ve always found long winters hard. When the leaves come down around now, it can make for a long wintery season. Having the green still there is in many ways a comfort to me. I have committed to loving the land and nature no matter what climate change does to it, and the continuation of leaves is an easy thing to love.
The seasonal walk I undertake to appreciate the beech leaves is on hold. I have no idea when it might make sense to do that.
There have been leaves emerging and plants growing in my area since late February. However, in the last week, there’s been a distinct rush of growth as many of the trees have come into leaf. The difference has been visible day to day.
The slowest trees – the few local oaks – still haven’t started, and the ash is slow. What dominates around here is beech. The smaller trees have their leaves, and the large ones clearly aren’t far behind. From the hilltops you can see how patches of woodland are developing – and each wood is different depending on how its slope relates to the sun.
For me, the new beech leaves are a seasonal wonder. They unfurl as flimsy things, incredibly pale so the light passes through them. When the sun is on them, they seem to glow, and they slightly colour the light as it passes through. A spring beechwood has a distinctly otherwordly feel to it.
As the year progresses, the beech leaves become darker and more substantial. The whole character of the woods changes, as shade deepens.
Alongside the trees’ unfurling leaves, there’s an eruption of foliage at ground level as well. On the commons, the cowslips are blooming in great profusion, and I’ve seen a few early purple orchids.
As the leaves change, my relationship with the sky will change, too. With the hotter part of the year underway, I will seek the welcome shade of trees, and tend to avoid the large open skies – except at twilight. I’m grateful for the opportunities to do that, also.
In the spring, beach leaves are a pale and delicate green, the sun passes through them easily and there’s something enchanting about a beech wood in direct sunlight. As the year advances, the beech leaves darken to a deep green that doesn’t let very much light through.
However, come the autumn, trees pull what they can back out of leaves, and the dark green fades to a delicate yellow, and then leaves turn a coppery colour before they fall. The impact on light in a beech wood at this point is startling.
A lot of light comes through the pale yellow leaves, but, filtered in this way it comes through as much more golden. If there are also fallen beech leaves, you get the amazing effect of honey tinted light interacting with coppery tones on the woodland floor. It’s a subtle thing, something you could miss if you weren’t looking for it. If you stop and pay attention, it’s quite a remarkable sight.
Beauty is around us. Re-enchantment is an everyday option if you go looking for it.
Greenness has been returning to my local landscape for weeks now. The slow unfurling of buds, the return of undergrowth, the shift in colour. The re-greening of spring is a long process, not an event. As I get outside every day in the normal scheme of things, I engage with this aspect of spring on a daily basis. I can heartily recommend it.
There have been years when I’ve failed to engage with the spring – mental health issues have been a big part of that. Experiencing it not as a daily development but as a dramatic moment is easier when you aren’t properly paying attention. That in turn is disorientating and has, in some years, left me with a profound sense of dislocation from the season.
‘Out into nature’ doesn’t have to be a big or difficult project. If there is anything non-human living where you do, then there’s scope to engage. Grass changes colour with the spring, becoming much more lush as it starts growing again. Flowers and small plants, even saplings will grow in the least promising of places. Any neglected ‘wasteland’ is soon reclaimed. Nature is not away, somewhere pristine and free from human meddling. Nature is with us all the time. Street trees do not consider themselves inferior to forest growth. The sparrows roosting in the street trees do not consider the trees to be anything other than their proper home.
When I was out yesterday, it felt like the greenery had reached a critical point. It no longer felt like it was getting started, and now feels like it is all under way out there. The green has returned. Small, opening leaves are everywhere. From a distance, the trees can look pretty bare, but up close, the unfurling is obvious. It’s also the smaller trees that leaf first – taking advantage of the light before taller trees get going – so to see what’s going on, you can’t view the wood as a whole thing from a distance.
For me, connecting with the plants is one of the easiest ways to connect with spring energy. Even if I’m not feeling so lively myself, I can delight in watching everything grow.
The wind is gentle here, the shape of the hill shielding us from the worst storms. As the wind comes through the valley it swirls and dances, forming tiny whirlwinds that scuttle over the grass. Leaves fall like painted snowflakes, gold from the heavens. A sky full of colour and movement, too lovely to seem properly real.
Slow to tumble, the leaves fall like feathers, turning and twirling towards a soft impact. As though a giant golden bird has flown by and released them. As though the sky is full of leaf tree birds shedding their feathers. As though a tree is a wing paused in motion, only revealing the feather nature of its leaves now autumn is here.
Amongst the fallen leaves, small birds and rodents practice their jumps and halting moves, sharp shifts as though they too are leaves blown by the wind. Feathers pretending to be leaves pretending to be feathers.