Signs of Spring
Have you been noticing the early signs of spring? Tumbling catkins, soft magnolia buds and the first green shoots of snowdrops are all gently unfolding here in Hampshire. Yesterday marked the festival of Imbolc, a time to celebrate the blossoming of life in the Wheel of the Year, and for me, it’s the song of the great tit that gives me the most hope as winter thaws into spring. In fact, it might be my favourite sound in the world - I wrote an essay about it in 2021 which I published in one of my seasonal essays zines. (I’ve also uploaded digital copies of all my seasonal essays for paid subscribers to enjoy - something to keep you going through the grey February days!)
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Spring might be slowly on its way, but for now we are still firmly in the clutches of the cold days and long nights. Luckily, February is one of the best months to enjoy the night sky - tiptoeing outside under cover of darkness to admire the vast cosmos of which we are all a part. Many of the UK’s national parks are holding their annual Dark Skies festivals in the next few weeks, so if you live close to the South Downs, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire or Northumberland, have a lo to find out which Dark Skies events are happening nearby.
The photo above was taken in Arctic Norway when I visited in 2017 to research the polar night for my third book Dark Skies: A Journey into the Wild Night. Dark Skies is a nature memoir about our relationship with the night sky, and I visited the Arctic during the winter months to see what it was like to live in darkness for almost 24 hours a day, three months a year. It was an amazing experience - and as you can see, I managed to see the aurora borealis, too! But it also made me appreciate the power of sunlight in winter - even just the weak sunlight of an anaemic February afternoon. This month I’ll be celebrating every extra minute of daylight we are given as spring begins its warm, wonderful descent.