April 21, 2024

While the magnolia’s decidedly middle-class bloom dominates everyone’s attention, I prefer the hidden, rougher happenings of spring, the kind I know we’ll find on the muddy path that runs between the industrial units and the strip of marshy wetland on our old housing estate. go. estate.

It’s a beautiful day. The sky is blue, the breeze fresh. There is rubbish here, sure – heaps of it – and the loud whine of machinery, but my senses soon bring me back to the mouthy, joyous cascade of wren song. First we pass hawthorn which holds its clean, new leaves in silent readiness. But it’s not his turn yet: right now it’s the blackthorn’s turn to take spring’s stage.

The path bends and there it is: clouds of blossoms, cushions and tangles. The gnarled blackthorn bushes are covered with thousands upon thousands of white stars, their pyrotechnics exploding in all directions. They will not think of leafing for a while yet, and so there is only this dark and light, each flower the color of freshly washed linen.

Indeed, it is a perfect drying day, a day to think of the crown-like figure often associated with blackthorn going about spring business. Traditionally, blackthorn was associated with sinister, cackling mischief – it was the wood of witches’ wands and wands, its large, sinister thorns the tools of curses and devilish covenants.

Winter is said to begin when the Cailleach, the Crown of Death, strikes the ground with her blackthorn staff, ushering in a season of loss and misfortune – but if blackthorn begins winter, it may also be seen to represent the end of It. If you half close your eyes, can’t you picture the Cailleach now, her sleeves rolled up, ushering in new warmth as she washes and pins each bright rosette to those wicked black nails? To look at a blackthorn in flower is to see death and new life, beauty and defiance, joined together in perfect balance, just as night and day meet neatly at the equinox.

Give me this tough-as-old-boots kind of spring any day, the kind that offers something more than beauty, a spring of matriarchal, fierce protection – but maybe only if you have the sense to show respect. The ill-mannered who drop their beer cans here need to watch their step: one drunk stumbles and those thorns can be unforgiving.

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