The problem with having a favourite time of year is that it will inevitably pass. In even the best of years that passing will come too quickly. Particularly in the best of years it will come too quickly.
For a time it felt that spring 2020 had not so much passed as simply been placed just beyond reach by random circumstance. Not cancelled – the familiar party would go ahead, same time as usual give or take. Humans just wouldn’t be on the guest list this time. Stay at home – it’s for the best.
And to some extent it seemed that it was: traffic noise suddenly seemed like a recollection from a more primitive time; the air – even at its most urban – was more fragrant, smelling of… well, nothing really. And clearer too: Venus visible in the western sky long before the sun had dipped below the horizon, burning larger and brighter still as the dusk deepened. Compensations in troubled times.
We knew that lockdown, long before it finally arrived, had become an inevitability; a ‘when not if’ acceptance that the road back to familiarity was likely to be both extended and arduous. Some of our first thoughts were for those communities along the Severn Valley floodplain – Ironbridge, Bewdley and many others – barely started on the process of salvaging possessions and livelihoods from receding floodwaters and now dealt another body blow. If there was ever any inclination to feel sorry for ourselves, it was quickly dissipated by the infinitely more serious plight of others.
It became important to focus on making the best of what was still available to us, particularly the sudden and unexpected availability of that most scarce of resources, time. We were diligent, observed the ‘one period of exercise per day’ guideline (albeit, on occasions, stretching out the time taken); eschewed the car and set out from the front door; combined the local trails and bridleways more creatively than at any time before. We watched bluebells, wild rhododendrons, fields of rape and asparagus, appear, disappear, change beyond recognition. We saw the last of the departing migrants and the first of the arrivals. Saw their creativity in choosing nesting sites and turning them into places to raise a family. Nothing is ever wasted in nature, least of all time.
This year has altered perceptions about many things. People have endured far worse these past few months than the triviality of our cancelled holidays and disrupted plans for days in the hills. There are some, too many, who won’t see another spring.
If we’re all still around to see the flycatchers and redstarts return to Gilfach and Elan Valley in 2021, I hope we remember to be as appreciative as we ought to be. I doubt any of us will be taking anything for granted.
Stay safe out there; help others do the same.