Often, I find February to be the hardest month of all. It starts off dark and cold, one foot in winter, one foot in Spring. In our December Fieldnotes, I wrote about the joys of wintering, that need to 'hunker down' and embrace the darkness; a regenerative must for us all. In February, my longing for an outdoor life grows and being indoors starts to feel confined, forced. The little mountains of soil created by moles comes to mind, all of this unseen activity underground, pushing to the surface. In a lot of ways February is like swimming up to the surface of water. Time creates its own light and as February progresses the sun rises a whole minute earlier and sets a whole minute later each day. This stretching of time only elongates as we progress into March. Like a cat stretching the whole length of its body on a patch of glorious sunlight. Claws out and thawing every inch of winter from its bones.
With all of this extra time and light, it's time for us to get to work. Busy hands like little mice scurrying about their activities with an almost mechanical whirr. Inside, we begin to sow hardy annual seeds, leaving a 2 week gap in between sowings so that we will have a succession of flowers to keep us going until October-November. We prepare the flowers beds, by weeding, digging over and adding a fresh layer of compost to refresh the soil. Everything gets a trim if it hasn't already and we peer into the cut, hollowed-out stems of 2021 and see the green leaves of 2022 emerge. Green shoots are appearing everywhere. The narcissi are yet to bud but slowly but surely they rise with every sunny day causing them to stretch a few centimetres more. We will it on with looking and hoping and wishing. Tulips, hyacinth and fritillary push through the soil and the ranunculus plump up in the polytunnel. The muscari are starting to flower, putting on a beautiful show with their blue flower heads bringing an inky vibrancy to these dull days. It has been slow, late progress for the anemones but we are hopeful yet. You can never rest on your laurels, there is always something that doesn't quite do what it should and when it should. In seed trays hundreds of tiny seedlings signal the promise of another year of flowers. Tides can't be stopped.
We have a few things growing for cutting at this time of year and this lack of abundance and variety makes those flowers more special and even more welcome. The earliest being Iris Reticulata. Beautiful, small, painterly flowers of yellow, blue and purple with a blaze of blue and yellow on the 'falls' of the petals. So like a butterfly in shape and pattern, they appear to flutter together in the flower bed.
With March fast approaching, Spring feels just around the corner. On my morning walks, everything feels soft. The creatures sing and move so softly softly as if to protect those still sleeping. The sun rises and spreads throughout the day like blushed cheeks. Soft hoots of wood pigeons punctuate the day. Everything feels slowly rousing, emerging from slumber, tentative and quiet. I watch a plane illuminated by a sunlight that hasn't risen for me yet behind the horizon. A tiny speck in the sky, the body of the plane looks like the flash of a shiny coin being turned in someone's fingertips. By night, I take walks under the very ordinary wonderment of a thousand stars, the moon so faint and liquid like the rim of precipitation left by a glass on a table. By day, I notice swathes of brown, orange and red bracken flattened and disintegrating like the collapsing embers of firewood.