A few fine flakes lie on the ground, a lacy shawl laid gently over the cold leaves; a shroud for the dead, or a delicate blanket for sleepers hidden in the crumbling litter of last year’s woodland canopy. It glitters and sparkles in the morning sun, at this early hour still too low to have any power, unable to warm and melt the silver fleece which midnight’s hands have dropped so silently over the trees and grass.
Though seeming soft and wonderful, its looks deceive, in truth it masks a strength beyond that of shining steel. The hefted spade barely makes a mark on the frozen earth. Even grass seems too strong for the polished blade. All it achieves is to scrape away the whiteness and reveal a dull, bruised green.
If I had a mechanical digger even that would struggle to break up the soil at this dead end of a long, cold Winter; and as it brutally battered its way below the surface the appalling noise of its artificial power would cruelly shatter the silence and stillness.
Spring is delayed by the stubborn, unrelenting grip which frost has laid across the land, and if it comes at all it may prove dry and thirsty; while clear, cold air flows down from the North, carrying the bite of Arctic teeth in its mouth. The sharp, non-scent of ancient ice shelves laid across the pole stings my nostrils as I walk through the gardens, where no one comes out to tend the untidy leavings of dark days and longer nights.
No! Spring is still a long way off, though each year our hope runs on ahead, wanting our wishes to shorten this time.
Yet neither is this Winter. For in truth the days are growing longer, the light is brighter, and at its zenith the Sun reaches out warm fingers and melts away the shawl of frost or snow.
We may not be able to pierce the soil’s armour with our tools, but something stronger than any tool has broken through the garden’s shell. Needle points of green with fine yellow tips are clustered on the lawn, and in a glade the gleaming heads of snowdrops hang shyly open in the sun.
Spring is not here yet, but this is the time of Stirring, and the power of growing things is greater than the frost, and soon a glint of gold will show where celandines have defeated the snow, while catkins already hang on the hazel wands, awaiting their time to shed a drift of golden dust across the warming land.
Yes, this is Stirring; a time for us to lift our heads and remember hope; a time to watch a blade of green split the frozen earth; a time to listen for early morning songs; and to feel a feather-light touch of warmth upon our faces.