After the drear of an Irish winter, the first few sunny spring days seem almost miraculous. As the gloom wore on, month after month, it seemed that never again would we rest easy in the sunshine. The Irish climate makes moments of luxuriating comfortably in nature rare, and therefore precious.
Yet all of a sudden, the bright green grass and the budding trees of spring arrive to give us hope. Each brave daffodil and every happy primrose that appeared in the shadowy woods promised that better would soon come. Covid restrictions have been varyingly in force for over a year now, and we can only hope that this spring will see the pandemic ease in tandem with the wintry weather, so that we all may roam more freely once again.
Now that the children are back in school, and spring is springing around us, there is some semblance of a return to pre-covid normality, or something akin to it. My wife is fully vaccinated and many older relatives are also thankfully receiving their initial shots. Day by day, there are ever more good reasons for fear to recede, and for hope to take its place.
Normally, the arrival of spring is merely a metaphorical release from prison, but this year it may be literally so. After the long winter lockdown, there is now hope that the restrictions which still hold us largely under house arrest will soon begin to be eased. At the very least, many hope that we might soon be trusted to travel beyond 5km from home, so that life will seem freer and more varied once more.
The brighter weather has seen kids spend more time playing out in the garden, and rediscovering the woods. They’ve even embarked on the construction of a camp. Rather ambitiously, they are watching episodes of Grand Designs for inspiration. With a bit of imagination, a few old bits of timber and sheets of galvanised can mean hours of joyful imaginary play for kids – even if the chances of Kevin McCloud turning up to critique their architecture remain slim.
The warming, lengthening days have also seen the kids become immersed in gardening. In our polytunnel, growth never really ceases all year long, with kale and other vegetables sprouting up merrily through the winter months. Now, under their nonna’s tutelage, they’ve planted all sorts of new things which are already beginning to shoot up.
They take great pride in supplying food for the family, and when vegetables become objects of pride and fascination, they’re all the more willing to eat them. They are already planting lettuce and tomatoes, which taste far better when freshly picked.
The most poignant part of the polytunnel is the area set aside for flowers grown from seed. These were planted shortly after my mother died in February, so that we would always have fresh cut flowers to bring to her grave.
The heartbreak of her death is still raw, yet this time of year reminds us that life will go on and that there are better days to come. Even after the darkest night, comes the glimmering dawn, however pale it may yet seem. This longest winter has at last yielded to spring, as winter always must – however reluctantly.