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Columbus, Ohio USA
Hidden places harbor signs of spring
By Rosalie Price
The March wind was cutting and keen as we headed down to the woods, little dog and me. He worried and leaped and pranced around my feet, soft fur tumbled and ruffling in the breezy gusts. He was longing to be away.
Little dog loves the wind, and he races to catch up with it. Indeed, that is one of his nicknames come to think of it, “Runs like the Wind.” His bright merry face laughs up into mine as he glimpses sight of his lead, and we race together and dive deep into the hidden places of the woods and hills.
Away from the houses and the people and the village and down the steep stony track, on past the ancient chalk-walled, thatch-rooved cottage of my old mate, Stan, tucked deep into the overhanging woodland trees, and on into those places known only to little dog and me.
No sign of aged Stan today. He’s probably busy erecting his numerous defences against the rabbits, pigeons, deer, squirrels and rats whose sole aim in life appears to be the rape and pillage of his garden and crops.
I feel sorry for Stan, fighting his never-ending battle against them, but on the other hand I suppose you could say that they are doing him a service really, I mean he can hardly get bored! He is so busy defending that he doesn’t know which way to turn at times with the maintenance of all his fences, tunnels and traps.
Those wild lives are giving him longevity in a massive way. By now he is so old that he has forgotten all about age. He has this one huge ongoing, never-ending challenge in life: just to grow a few decent crops.
And his vegetables, his flowers, his fruit trees are superb. I know because I have the overflow of them all. At times I have staggered home from these woods with my arms laden with flowering blooms.
The soft hazels tangle around us, unfurled catkins bouncing and bobbing above our heads. Shaking and trembling in the gusty breeze, tiny new honeysuckle buds peep, and the brilliant emerald mosses clamber and smother every tree root and fallen bough, and swathes of snowy white snowdrop clumps.
Little dog pants and paws at the old beech trunks, excitement choking his yaps and barks while the skittish grey squirrels race from his reach and mock down from the safety of the canopy above. And my laughter rings through the valley, but there is no one to hear.
The birds are there though, for the drumming and the drilling of the woodpeckers busy beak is constant, and from time to time his green flashing plumage darts through the trees. The old collar doves strut and coo on the high branches. The blackbirds gather the mosses in their orange bills. The blue tits bob and dart, sparrows and wrens chatter and sing.
Nest building is rampant in every bush and tree.
And there beneath my feet, the first crumpled golden primroses of the season, struggling up through the tough wintry soil. On beyond, in the most ancient glen where the beeches are hundreds of years old and where the wild bees form their hives inside all the holes of the great spreading trunks, there is the most beautiful sight of all. A million brand new brave brilliantly green spears urging and jostling for space, spreading and weaving and silently bursting with life. I know that in a few short weeks this whole wood will be a thick rich lushly verdant carpet of the deepest blue I have ever seen. The bluebells will be back in flower.
And as I stop to watch and listen, a soft whisper spins through the branches and around my head. It dances and wafts on the wind: “Spring is coming!” And a kind of joyousness fills the air, for that which was dead is living, is coming back to life. And my heart sings. Little dog sings. I can hear his faint calls as he darts in the distance. The springtime magic is come.
As we struggle back up over the brow of the steep field and hill, the dark clouds part, the sharp winds drop, and a glowing sun shines out from a gap in the sky. It is as though the world has stood still. And as I turn and look back, the valley is filled with a piercing effervescent light. Each stark trunk is luminously aglow and each bare branch shines and sparkles and seems dipped in gold.
And way above in the distance soars a lone buzzard with the bright sunrays twinkling and dancing on his great outstretched wings.
I know then that there is nowhere else I would rather be.
Rosalie Price is daughter of the late Ralph Whitlock, former columnist for the Manchester Guardian Weekly
© 2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.