Premature? Of course it's premature. Spring's always premature. And that's the point of it. It cracks into winter when winter's still about. It throws out shoots into air still hostile.
Spring's an act of bravado, of daring, a fat risk taken, a promise made too soon, but a promise that the earth never goes back on. However hard winter comes at it, though it freezes buds and blackens shoots, spring keeps coming and nothing is better.
The novelty never palls. Earth's immeasurable surprise, Larkin called it. bang on as always.
Officially 16 days of winter still remain but spring doesn't understand "officially". Spring happens when it happens and here that's now. The rush to reproduce is on. Sap's up. Blossoms out. Up and out are spring's directions. Up and out.
I've tried to write the spring before, to capture it in words. The last time may have been, oh, about a year ago. But I never quite get it because spring is wordless. It predates words. It can't be isolated for inspection. It's an urge, a force, a drive. It rolls unstoppably through everything. All we can see is symptoms, sparks tossed off by its energy, odd indicative sparks, like my swallows.
Of course they are no more mine than they are yours or Aunty Doris', but it's on a shelf of books in my garage that they nest so I claim them. And they're back already, back from who knows where, from somewhere warmer, somewhere a little closer to the equator.
They remain appalled by me, taking fright and flight at the sight of me, but these instinct-driven scraps of feathered flesh, these insect-slaying acrobats, they please me to the very bone. Not just by being what they are, though what they are is beautiful, but by returning year on year. Like spring.
A male chaffinch came to the deck today all dressed for sex. He's sloughed the dowdiness of winter and donned a chest plate the colour of bricks and a hood of powder blue that shimmered in the sun. And you could sense him strutting, preening, feeling the surge.
How the birds sing these bright mornings, carolling for mating rights, warning rivals, beckoning lovers. What I see as my land they know as theirs. To them the human overlay of roads and roofs and property rights means nothing. We are interlopers. They endure.
The wattle by my kitchen window has been in flower for weeks, a vivid mustard froth. Why it goes so early I don't know. Why any of this goes at all I don't know. It just is, and it pleases, presumably because I'm born of the same forces. Spring means merely that the planet's tilting back, the earth is warming.
Fish and chips - should have ordered half a scoop
Where would we be without the senses?
A quiz - are you ready, twitching and keen?
I buried a dog last summer, put a plaque on the spot. He'll have spent the winter dissolving into soil and water, and now the roots of the rosemary and lavender that I planted on his grave are reaching down and drawing him up. There's a fresh light green on the rosemary and hints of bud on the lavender and they are my dog. Spring's acoming - again. And again and again and again.
The daffodils have come again, their blaring trumpets, butter-yellow and vulgar jubilant. Subtler are the swellings on the twigs of the silver birch, the cherry, the apple that the possum ravaged. The swellings are like nascent biceps, urges under the skin, growths.
The hydrangeas are one step further round the cyclical continuum. I hacked them back just a month ago, levelled them to short and leafless sticks, left the wounds open and their hopes gone. But now they're up and it again, sap flowing, pushing out buds like ruby bullets, bullets that are already splitting to give tiny tongues of leaf, of a green so delicate you fear it's too frail for this world. It isn't too frail for this world. It belongs.
But it's the weeds that belong best, weeds being just the plants that like it here, that need no help, that we routinely smack down, uproot and poison for fear that they will overrun us. And still they overrun us.
Last week the grass felt the stir of the season and grew a foot overnight. Periwinkles bursting through the crumbling concrete of my drive, busting it like biscuit, and the old invincible ivy has sent out a thousand light green snakes, slithering through the grass in search of prey.
Ivy's now so thoroughly involved in my woodshed it effectively is my woodshed. I've given up fighting it. You can't beat spring.