Leo Tolstoy once wrote ‘Spring is the time of plans and projects.’ Yet here at home in Caithness, the ninth week of lockdown meant plans and projects put on hold. Keeping up with the daily cycles of homeschool, home work and domesticity leaves us feeling that boredom might be a luxury. Half-weeded patches of garden glare in through patio windows, as if to illustrate the point.
The weather turns from sun, to rain, to raging winds that scatter blossom from the weighty branches of the cherry tree. The grass is pink with confetti, in the same spot where just a few weeks ago, a snowman was being built. Daffodils give way to blossom and blossom gives way to bluebells, and in the distance, summer waits to join the cycle. The world gives and takes in a bittersweet story of change and permanence – a never-ending carousel of loss, new growth, departure and renewal. I read a post by my friend Andrea, on nostalgia for moments that have not yet left and am comforted that I am not the only person in the world to feel this way. I miss the cherry blossom before it ever leaves the tree, grieve the empty nest before the chicks depart. It gives me an intense appreciation, I think, of the moment I am experiencing, an evocation of memento mori – ‘remember you too will die’ – that timeless, beautiful caution on the transience of living. To some, this kind of foreshadowed nostalgia will seem melancholy, but to me it’s a reminder to be grateful for every moment. To fully appreciate the most simple and spectacular joys of life in whatever form they take.
Outside, I see those simple joys played out in nature, in lives that pay no heed to lockdown. The birds and bees carry on with their plans and projects regardless – two gulls setting up residence in the field in front of us, surveying small kingdoms from a lamppost they man both day and night. Soon, there will be fledglings staggering around our front garden, prompting concern from my children, who will be convinced these younglings have been abandoned, only to see them fly off into the world with gusto. A cuckoo, too, calls from the vicinity of our neighbourhood – something I realise with delight I have never before heard from my front door. Two ducks wander around the field, looking bored and restless, edged by the windows and doors that frame our entertainment. We peer out at them between the colourful rainbows we made nine weeks ago – bright arcs of gratitude we stuck with hope and blu-tack to the glass.
At the end of the week, we hear that lockdown in Scotland will be easing, and that from the end of the month, we will be granted small freedoms, such as the chance to see members of another household. Outdoor swimming will be allowed, we can travel short distances, the world will return to its past life in steps which are cautious, monitored and phased. I look forward to seeing family and friends, but at the same time feel strangely nostalgic for these past weeks, with their legacy of empty streets, closed doors and hearts filled with awakening.
The wind rages outside my window but I am grateful for both the storm and the sunshine.
I know Spring will return again. For now, she is busy with her plans.