RSPB Scotland's Karl Stevens shares his experience of spring over the last few months in lockdown. Share your lockdown stories with us using #MyWorldNow on social media.
A spring like no other
I’d recently moved to the edge of Holyrood Park in Edinburgh when the Lockdown announcement came. As I signed the lease on my flat, I hadn’t quite realised that it was soon to double up as office, restaurant, pub, gym and window to the outside world. ‘A spring like no other’ is how many have described the last few months. As Mother Nature got set to perform her big number, the human race hunkered down behind closed doors. It seemed that all I could do was sit out the next few months. Wait for better times. To stay safe. To stay at home.
I would sit and watch the outside world through my window. Lockdown had taken effect, but something else was on its way. As always, the changes were small at first; an almost imperceptible heightening of senses. Something was in the air; a ‘springiness.’ Then came the colours – the big, bold and brash hues of early spring – straight out of a 1980’s music video. Acid greens and instant-custard yellows vied for my attention outside the window. A hillside of vibrant flowering gorse began to release its luxuriant tropical aromas in the sunshine, drifting through my window, and taking me back to long summer days in the back garden of my childhood home - coconut suntan lotion, parched grass, paddling pools and homemade orange ice lollies.
I would wait each day for that one hour when I could get outside for my daily exercise. As the time drew closer, I would sit at my computer, giddy as a child waiting for the school bell to ring, knowing that I could get outside, immerse myself in nature, listen to invisible skylarks singing at impossible heights in the skies above me, and the chattering chiffchaffs and chaffinches hidden amongst the gorse. It was all so alive. It was all so yellow!
Several studies have shown that yellow is the colour most associated with happiness. It’s often associated with sunshine, hope and optimism. I also wonder if this may, in no small way, be connected to its abundance in nature in early spring; daffodils, primroses and crocus – bright beacons signalling the end of winter and reminding us that new life is on its way.
Across the park, grasses and wildflowers began to fulfil their destiny, growing ‘long and lovely and lush’ and streaked with golden highlights - dandelions, buttercups, coltsfoot and cowslip - pitstops for a wealth of thirsty pollinators.There’s an immeasurable pleasure in walking through these dense savannas at the end of the day – the so-called Golden Hour - arms stretched out over flimsy seed heads, gently stirring tiny insects that form dancing constellations in the early evening skies above.
Then, a few weeks ago, my favourite plant in the whole wide world began to flower – the yellow flag iris. I’d seen green leaf spikes emerging around Hunter’s Bog, so had been keeping a keen eye on their progress for a few weeks. These flowers always remind me of quiet lochans and secluded beaches in the Hebrides, where I spent the last few years, so seeing their vibrant crowns emerge in Edinburgh has been a real highlight of the last few months – mercifully unaccompanied by that other west coast favourite – the dreaded midge!
As the springtime colours of my 1980’s youth mature into the ‘grown-up’ greens, creams and whites of summer, I find myself reflecting on what my local patch and I have been through over the last few months. I may not have witnessed every new bud, every flash of colour – though it feels like I have. I’ve seen and heard birds I’ve never noticed before in Edinburgh – though it’s possible they’ve always been here. I guess the process of stopping, of noticing, of letting myself become immersed in nature has helped me feel more connected, more invested in the place now than I’ve ever been. And I know I’m not alone – people across the country have had similar experiences.
There’s an old saying that ‘when gorse is in flower, kissing is in season’. Whilst the global pandemic has meant snogging is very much off the table, many of us have very much fallen back in love with nature. As the world begins to open up, and our lives become distracted by the many trappings of the modern age, I just hope that we remember what nature has given us over the last few months, and that these remarkable experiences don’t become a brief holiday romance that slowly fades away into our memories.
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