A Love Letter to the First Signs of Spring
February is the cruellest month - the new year is long gone, taking resolution and enthusiasm with it. The cosy darkness of early January, inviting early nights and pyjama weekends, has given way to a lighter grey that makes inertia less acceptable but no less desirable, and the weather is wilder and more bitter. England is still the cold country peopled with huddled figures in dark, shapeless coats that it has been since November.
But then, one morning, you gaze out at the skeletal branches scratching the sky and there among them sits a cloud of pink petals, a ball of candyfloss caught in their spindly sticks.
It seems so fragile, so unlikely, that there's an urge to run straight to it, drink in its delicate colour and soft, sweet scent. Every time I glance out of my window, someone is standing under those blossoms, camera in hand, recording this miracle of nature for Instagram or posterity, as though this were the first ever tree to perform this crazy trick.
Then, looking down you see a crocus lurking in the lifeless flowerbed. A fleck of yellow as bright as an August sunflower, small but perfect, it seems as exotic as any tropical bloom. Scattered across the park, golden and purple flowers shoot through the winter earth, a triumph of life over inertia.
These are tiny, delicate flowers, destined to disappear in the strong winds February loves, to be crushed underfoot or sink into the rising mud, but their transience makes them all the more precious. We all know that, failing floods or snow, there will be crocuses in the park and blossoms on the trees by the end of February, but still their sudden appearance seems implausible, magical.
Later, our cherry blossom will turn the garden pink, tall roses will fill the air with their sultry smell, and honeysuckle will ensnare passers-by with its siren scent. We'll feel the sun on the backs of our necks as we walk, its warmth melting winter's inertia, and long evenings will seem a blessing rather than an endurance. Compared to summer's bounty, February's flowers are slight, their fragrance no more than a suggestion, like a trace of perfume on last night's clothes. But, as winter grinds bleakly on, this colour, this sign of life feels vital, a promise of brighter days to come.