George Moore, the Irish writer, called impressionism 'the rapid noting of elusive appearance.' This morning, with my second cup of breakfast coffee, after the farmer had gone out for his morning walk, I thought how true that was also of the arrival of Spring. In the same way that Monet caught a sudden shaft of sunlight on the waterlilies in his garden pool, we see sudden flashes of something or other which might indicate that Spring is on its way.
One which has been in evidence for a week or two now on sunny days popped up in the book I was reading (Roger Deakin's Notes from Walnut Tree Farm) when he mentioned the arrival of gnats - he called them 'the outriders of Spring.
Today is a lovely, still, warm sunny March day. A Monday which my mother would have called 'a good wash day'. A true daughter I have just pegged my washing out on the line in the full sunlight. Gnats are dancing in shafts of sunlight, the birds are going mad - robins, sparrows, blackbirds, a wren - all vying to be top bird, and the ground, still very wet from the months of rain, is actually steaming.
I don't know what it is about Spring. The other three seasons all seem to merge into one; but by the time March comes round we are all desperately searching for signs that Spring is coming. We call out to walkers passing by our farm 'aren't the nights drawing out?', or we remark that we had tea without putting the light on, or we didn't light the woodburner til early evening.
Well, I can feel it in my bones and I am sure you can too. And if anyone tells me Spring began on March 1st - whatever the Met Office may say - it jolly well didn't. The first day of Spring is March 21st - almost three weeks away yet - so I shall continue to watch for those outriders.