Outlook 21
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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The promise of Spring
16 The promise of Spring The days lengthen. The sun warms the tilled soil. ‘Sumer is icumen in.’ In so many ways, Nature is reminding us of a new start, a new beginning. In the open fields, the hares, on their hind legs, are ‘boxing.’ This is either an all-male battle for social dominance, or simply Jill refusing Jack’s advances. Rabbits and their young nibble the short grass on roadside verges or lawn edges. From a deep winter sleep, the hedgehog emerges and snuffles its way through the garden, looking for worms or beetles. A badger, having spent the winter in its underground sett, tests the spring air. Spring, for many creatures, is a time for renewal, when mating occurs for the continuity of the species. Small animals, especially lambs, represent Spring and new life; the lamb is seen as the Lamb of God. Yellow flowers attract the early flying insects, which in turn are food for birds, including the newly arrived warblers, flycatchers and chiffchaff, not seen since late Summer. Our resident birds, with the current mild Winter, are active; some have already found mates and begun nest-building. The robin and blackbird, and the hedge sparrow, or dunnock, may well already be laying eggs. New life The egg-shell reminds us of Christ’s tomb from which He arose, in purity. Lilies, white and pure, growing in the earth, represent resurrection and herald new life. The blackthorn’s pure white blossom is seen in the hedgerows, together with the quaintly named ‘Jack-by-the-Hedge’, or Garlic Mustard. The emerging sun might encourage the odd butterfly, a significant symbol of Easter, living as it does in three stages. The caterpillar represents Christ’s earthly life, and the cocoon His death and entombment. But the emerging butterfly, brilliant and dazzling, symbolises the Resurrection of Christ, in his glory; and is the emblem of peace. And the trees? In the coppice wood, the hazel disports its catkins, and on most hardwood species the leaves have begun to swell and burst (read The Trees by Philip Larkin). But the true harbinger of Spring, of new life, is the osier. Its pussy willow ‘palms’ remind us of the entry in Jerusalem of Jesus, who constantly speaks to us of new life. Palms, to greet the King! Spring heralds the arrival of cherry blossom, which usually appears before the leaves: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough And stands about the woodland ride, Wearing white for Eastertide. A E Housman: A Shropshire Lad Michael Stagg