It was a fitting end to winter. After freezing temperatures and a dusting of snow, the gales came in. We hunkered down as the wind screamed, the rain pummelled, and the darkness descended. We had the lights on and the fire lit all day. I have to admit that I did not venture out of my dressing gown, much less the house for several days. I worked, I cooked, I ate, I watched the telly, and the screens of multiple devices. In other words, I didn’t move much. To lift my spirit, I played a disco compilation while I worked, which got me moving, though I’m not sure if chair dancing counts as exercise.
I have to admit that February was tough. Everyone was feeling the weight of lockdown one way or another. Fed up and sick to the back teeth of it. For some it was home-schooling. For others it was waving at loved ones through the window. For many it was the insecurity, the loneliness, and the grief of it all. Sometimes it is the little things that get you down in lockdown. Pandemic Problems, like their sibling, First World Problems, can be petty. For example, I would very much like hairdressers and swimming pools to open. I am also annoyed that I can’t get takeaway from my favourite restaurant, as it is a 42km round trip to Rosscarbery from my house. Remembering the lads that got done for driving 80km to get a burger, I calculated the chances of making it there and back undetected. What if they sent me home and my order went to waste? I decided not to chance it. In fact, I haven’t chanced anything, not even a single trip to the beach. I’ve been as close as you can get to cocooning without wrapping myself in a chrysalis.
And then I woke up late last Thursday and the sun was shining. The rest of the household was milling around the kitchen. The door was open. The dogs were running in and out, delighted with themselves. Venturing outside I discovered snowdrops, daffodils and sorrel. A vague memory of wearing shorts and working in the garden drifted on the southwest breeze. The sky was blue. The clouds were white and puffy. The birds were having a rave in the treetops and my daughter saw a bumblebee. Could it be Spring at last?
It certainly looks like it. In just a few days, the landscape has started buzzing again. Buds are budding. Ferns are unfurling. Flowers are shyly opening the show. Driving back from Lidl, which is normally the most exciting thing in my day, I saw several crows on Convent Road carrying sticks in their beaks. I literally shrieked with joy. If the crows are getting their DIY groove on, then it must be Spring.
One of the best things about West Cork is that Spring comes so early and so undeniably. It could snow tomorrow. It’s still Spring. Once the land starts waking up, there is no going back. It’s ready, steady, grow!
Though somewhat depressed, we were not idle in February. We got the potatoes chitting. I sowed seeds and put them in the porch, and the tunnel got a makeover. I am grateful to the habits of gardening, which force you to think ahead to a future of bounty. A gardener believes in tomorrow, even when tomorrow looks pretty glum.
I must admit that when I sowed the seed trays on a bleak Sunday, I did so with little joie de vivre. Being stuck in Ireland for another summer was getting me down. Each week seemed to push getting the vaccine further away, and more months of restrictions closer. I was not a happy camper. I felt no joy in planning the garden, but I did it anyway. It’s what gardeners do. And it sure pays off.
This is the time when tasks start lining up: cut the raspberry canes, prune the trees, check the strawberries in the bathtubs, transplant those seedlings and sow some more. As I sketch out what to grow where, calculating if I could squeeze in a few rows of broad beans in the potato patch, I feel my heart lift. I can see what this place will look like in June, and I know that the months between then and now will be filled with primroses, bluebells, wild garlic and the first of the salads and radishes. It suddenly does not seem that bad to be stuck here for the summer.
Hang in there. Soon we will have a fine stretch in the evenings. The beauty of Spring isn’t in lockdown. Enjoy every extra ray of sunshine, every flower in the hedgerow. No matter what lies ahead, it will be better than the last four months.