Winter was over. The snow had gone but the sun had not yet chased away the frost that froze time in the grassy shadows under the bushes. The air was crisp with chill and anticipation as glints of sunlight flashed across the top of the lake, energising the water and promising the World its annual rebirth.
As I placed one tentative foot on the path between the lake and the small river that silently slid past it, I felt the ground tremble. Mother Nature was not yet ready to release her grip on spring’s freedom. Instead, she held it tightly to herself as the leaves were held in buds on the trees, ready to blossom forth when her signal released them.
As always, Mother Nature released the Snowdrops first. They gathered in small groups, whispering in the silence of the chilled air, heads bowed in secrecy, lest anyone should discover their mysteries. They were aware of my presence as I crept past, yet they never turned a petal. They would not tell that I had been here.
A loud ‘crack’ echoed across the lake, repeated again and again as the Mallard duck called to his mate. The sound seemed out of place around these still waters. It was as though it should have been reserved for summer, when the clamour of young families of different species rocked the air itself.
I listened in silence and gradually distant bird song fell in soft flakes all around me. Every living thing was awakening, everything knew its place. Preparations were being made, old mates found and dances practiced to attract new ones. All of this was being conducted covertly. Nothing had begun yet, no signal had been given. But everything was moving into the starting position. As muscles strained and tensions grew, Mother Nature would make one final inspection. When, and only when she was satisfied that everything was in its place, would she then release her grip and allow everything to spring into life.
Then the struggle would begin in earnest. Leaves would burst forth to paint the canopy. Plants would push through the soil, grass unroll as a carpet and the air would become alive with the sounds of creatures happy simply to exist. Then Mother Nature would beckon in all the migrants, swelling the skies with sights and sounds. What a wonderful time to be alive!
But for now the bow was still tight. The tension in the air was almost unbearable!
The ground vibrated and I crouched behind a bush as a giant creature slowly lumbered past, oblivious to all the sights and sounds around it. I would be all right as long as I kept still because its eyesight was poor. It would not smell me either as this sad lumbering giant had lost most of its senses. A sound from the lake caused me to turn my head and witness a jumping trout, seemingly suspended in mid air, its shape transcribed by an arc of rainbow water above it. We would go fishing today!
I skipped across the path and slid into the soothing water of the narrow river. Once back in the Holt, my mate was excited. I told her about my trip, but she could already taste it from licking my coat. I mentioned the lumbering beast. She said that she had heard that Man, (as it was called) did not hibernate because it had to stay awake counting the days to know what season it was. I laughed, but part of the theory did ring true to me. What a sad life it must be when you can’t feel the seasons turning around you.