The wood so softly singing
In a language strange to hear
And the song it sings will find you
As the twilight draws you near


Starry Nights and Liminal Days

Corkscrew Hazel in my garden

My garden is a place where many plants grow in Summer.  In Winter there are few.  But while the nights are longer than the days, I am drawn there by the domain of night to look at the sky.  The patch I can see  has as its central feature the constellation of Orion.  I know this well.  There on any clear night I can see the three stars of the Hunter's belt with Betelgeuse above and Rigel below.  Further down from the belt gleams Sirius just above the trees.  To the right of Betelgeuse is Aldebaran's red eye, to the left Procyon and further up Castor and Pollux.  Right above my head if I look straight up is Capella, high and bright.  And if I swivel round I can see the Giant's Chair, Cassiopeia.  Beyond that is the Plough, though I would have to walk to the end of the garden and then turn round to see it over the house.  On really clear nights, when the Moon is hiding her face, Capella gleams in the mist of the Milky Way.  But a faint mist it is, and I have to go away from the village to see it in all its glory.  This Winter, when all the land is empty and the Spring seems long in coming, look up at the wonders of the skies and think on the mysteries of the deep places beyond.

   On the common where the grass lies in a damp mat and the brambles lie leafless on the sodden mounds, there is a fine bed of Winter Heliotrope newly in flower; the lilac flowers rising in spikes from the large heart-shaped leaves which remained green and fresh through the early frosts of Winter are now spread out luxuriantly beneath the blooms as if the Sun were at his zenith and not recently risen from the cauldron of the Winter Solstice.

    Soon we will be looking for mild weather to bring on the early flowers of Spring.  In hollows sheltered from the wind, and where the sunlight is caught, celandines and dandelions will open briefly to the middle day.  Catkins already hang from hazels, long and yellow.  Hard Ferns and Male Ferns still grow green on mossy banks.  The stems of last year's Wood Sage stand with leaves still green below the husks of their tiny flowers.  On the far side of the lake the purple buds of alders stain the foreground with a mist of purple-grey.  Beyond the bare hillside is rust-brown with dead bracken, the sky grey with cloud.

But Spring waits, advancing on mild days, biding the time during cold nights, as we move towards the time when the days will be of equal length with the nights. A liminal time, when the borders of Winter  begin to fade, though like all such borders, still immanent in their fading.