February was mild and Nature got a bit ahead of herself.
The English countryside is now bright with blossom: in the trees, in the hedgerows and underfoot; walking across the park you have to take care not to tread on violets, primroses and celandines.
I even saw cowslips alongside the cycle path the other day.
The multitudinous shades of pinks and yellows are an absolute joy, but some of them seem decidedly out of season. Last Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday – Mardi Gras – so Easter must still be another five weeks away; and yet the pussy willow – which we used to decorate the church for Palm Sunday when I was a child – is far advanced.
The catkins have burst from their apple-pip buds and shaken out their yellow tresses.
Having had a quick look on Google, I was surprised to see the pussy willow associated with Palm Sunday in Lativa and Finland, but not the suburban England of my infancy. So I did a little more investigation and learned of the poet Xie Daoyun, who, when challenged to describe the snow falling, came up with the image of:
I can’t say which of those is the most accurate translation of her words, but, even if I could, I’m not at all sure that the description is really satisfactory. I’ll admit it’s more original than the white feathers I wrote about in Snow song, but, to me, the catkins seem more like squirrel tails than snow flakes.
Whatever the best comparison is, perhaps it is only right that this afternoon the sky darkened and the snow came:
I didn’t go across to the park during the snow storm, but I suspect the willow catkins were whirling in the wind.