Where are the Darling Buds of May?

Why have the weathermen decided that summer has arrived just because the clocks were put forward an hour? British Summer Time isn't the benchmark for summer to begin; it's the Solstice on 23rd June. Human rules don't apply to the natural order of the seasons. There's one way to be sure that winter is over and that's when Mother Nature decides the time is right, but she seems to have confused herself this year- it's the end of April and there's a pretty cover of violets and primroses along the hedgerows and river banks that should have been blooming in February.

Nature's creatures know instinctively when their habitats are safe from frost and cold and it isn't yet - maybe, that's the reason the swallows are so late and the cuckoo hasn't returned, the native garden birds; chiff-chaffs, gold finches, a jay and green woodpecker are still feeding from seeds that I've scattered for them. Apart from the seagulls who carry on regardless! Stupid or what? They're doing what comes naturally in April and attacking their reflection in the windows, and their amorous intentions towards the wooden ducks in the garden is too explicit to spell out in a family-orientated website.

tamar river willows stone circles spring river blossom gate

In Cornwall, there are age-old customs to celebrate the season of renewal and the spiral of life and death. We welcome the light half of the year in response to the waxing of the sun's strength, with joyful festivals with flowers, flags, greenery and dancing, characterising the symbols of potency and fertility embodied in Flora Day and Padstow's, 'obby 'oss. There are few signs of the merry month of May and the town's folk will have to search deep in the woods for bluebells and lily-of-the -valley, only just beginning to emerge from the cold earth.

What if mankind has already decided through greed and ignorance to upset this natural order? The forces against it are gathering with bleak foreboding. Remember last May? It was so cold there wasn't enough blackthorn blossom to make sloe gin in September. It's been a harsh year... unremitting cold and wet, unlike any I've known since living in Cornwall. I've spoken to local farmers who are worried about their futures; root crops aren't growing, cereals are rotting in muddy furrows and animal feed is being bought in because of the poor grass yield last summer, added to which, there's the threat of bullying supermarkets grinding down prices.

We're aware of what is going on as it's glaring at us, however, we aren't prepared to pay the price with our cosy lifestyles. We take for granted the cycle of the seasons and stumble, myopically, assuming it will warm up soon. What if it doesn't? Maybe, the future has arrived and we must face up to the fact that our climate has already changed. Think of the winter we've had; flooding, relentless rain, it was so cold, icicles formed on the branches in our stream! Climate change sounds remote and vague in our complacent little world... what's melting Arctic ice or prolonged drought in Africa got to do with us? Hold on! We're already suffering from the symptoms, the illness has been diagnosed and it's not too painful, apart from moaning about the hike in fuel costs. We should care that the condition is hereditary and will be far more painful for grandchildren and they might not have a choice when human survival is at stake.

We're desperate for a greener, cleaner economy but while we're still fortunate enough to be insulated from the mounting consequences of climate change, it will remain a remote problem for others to deal with, when in reality, it demands the collective power of individuals to take action and inspire our leaders to fight for our grandchildren. The fact is, it's already impacting on real people, animals and our beloved places. Is it melancholic to recall the lyrics of Pete Seeger's song, 'Where Have all the Flowers Gone?'.... when will we ever learn?

That said, what a difference a day's sunshine makes! My garden, that has been chiding me for weeks to come out and play, is weeded and hoed, and the fields, trees and flowers are waking up, filling me with so much joy. The lifeless, nutmeg-brown branches are transformed with a lace-fragile haze of tender green and the citrus sharpness of the gorse, mingles with the fluffy, baby-bonnet yellow of the willow catkins, throwing a shimmer of gauzy gold over the scrubby, moorland hedges. Perhaps, spring is just a little late this year!

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