Himself used to call this time of year the dying time. What he meant was that we all think it’s spring when spring is still hiding, holding back. Perhaps it is different in Englandshire, although with the extraordinary changes in our collective weather patterns, I am guessing it is not as it once was. Perhaps the early lambing now needs to be within the safety of a barn because the weather changes are not easily predicted. We cannot say it will be fine today anymore. There is intempestivity in our world, a windswept tumble, a helterskelter and we are the receivers of such, grounded as we are in our tacketty boots and our waterproof trews. We walk in sunshine and then suddenly, in a nanosecond, a black sky chucks hail at us, hail that would kill a lamb. It did and often unless a skilled shepherd was always on watch.
Himself could read the skies. I loved his knowledge even as I took it completely for granted. Can I hang out the washing? Hmmm, you have two hours. We need to ready about now (sailor term) right now, and there I was, shifting from one side to the other of the sailing boat, bringing over the boom, pulling ropes, fastening other things to other things so we didn’t capsize. He was always right. And when he was out there in the killing time, when calves were fighting to survive and lambs were the pickings for ravens and crows, not to mention the sleet and freezing winds, he stayed and watched like a mother. I guess he was another mother, one with the choice to save those who were faltering before another bone chilling night out there in the wild open. Although I might have, back then, grumped about yet another ewe and lamb to rub down, to feed and to warm, what with five feral children to find and to scrub for tomorrow’s school, his attention to his animals was impressive.
This time of a weatherly sleight of hand in ‘False Spring’ terms was also the time our beloved heavy horse sank into a bog. If you have read my book you will know she should never have been way out there on the shore, not at this time of tapselteerie, when new grass leaps up to a suddeningly warm sun only to be dashed back down to pulp after a 2 minute hail blast and accompanying wind. I hear her welcoming whinny still, sense the warm cave of her back for a slow ride home to hay and shelter. She rumbles on like an aftershock. She is remembered, respected and honoured. And her memory brings me back to the now. There are events in all of our lives we might rather not remember, but we do. Any cut between ourself and another, a permanent one, is a shock, like an earthquake. We move on, of course we do, if we can, but something we might find hard to understand are the aftershocks. They can hit us like a hailstorm in spring, one that batters and bends and breaks the inner daffodils that looked so strong and safe in this morning’s warm sunshine. We learn like students in a new school how to live with and beyond the aftershocks, faltering, awkwarding, turning away and hiding, but eventually we emerge in a shape we don’t recognise until we do. It only takes a look in a shop window to say oh Hallo You, there you are. And that is enough.
The aftershocks keep coming. They come unbidden, unsought, but they come. A crocus bloom through snow, a line in a song, something someone says, the lift of a bird, the sudden green buds of a larch tree that weren’t there yesterday and the ground rises up beneath us, confounding our feet. The wind is still cold, the hail right up there all encased in a frickin big black cloud moving right towards me, but I can see this green and I am sticking with the green. The hope. The hail, the tempests, the sinking down, the longing, the what-the heck of things will not tamp my flame. Not as long as I know how to make fire. I do. And you do too.