The sodden winter earth is drying as the trees and shrubs come into leaf. I am deeply grateful for the bursting forth of these beings. Every autumn, I tell myself that I must survive one more academic year before making bigger decisions about my future. Last autumn, I mustered the necessary courage and resolve, but it soon waned. The pain endured by loved ones, illness, accumulating evidence of ongoing discrimination, sustained strikes and a global pandemic contributed to a brutal, and worsening, year. By spring, I usually wonder how much more is possible.
This spring, the meaning of survival and the nature of those at risk has shifted, but the renewal around me brings solace. For months, the smaller garden birds and jackdaws have been congregating in conferences. The butterflies dance together in the sun. At dusk, the bats take their place. Soon, the kestrels, foxes and badgers will return.
A few days ago, I saw the first swallow. Alone and an early arrival from Africa, it darted over the long grass and into the sky. These chatty, iridescent acrobats always lift my spirits. When I first moved outside the city, the swallows nested in some outbuildings. By the summer, the chicks were using the space to practise flying before migrating south for the winter. After a nest collapsed, the adults found alternatives. I mourned their absence. Last year, they repaired old nests and built new ones so the flying school may reopen.
The buzzards have been circling over the garden, newly punctuated with molehills, for weeks. When they mew, I usually dash outside to catch them fending off aggressive crows. Once, I saw a rat running for cover the moment a buzzard swooped in for the kill. Mantling over the dying rat, the suspicious buzzard briefly looked around before flying away to consume the prize gripped in its talons.
The spring blossoms are the greatest delight. The ornamental cherry is the first to renew, but starts to turn within days. The blackthorn froths.
The quince is next to burst into flame.
The apple, edible cherry and nectarine are all in bud, but, this year, they’ve been outshone by a peach.
My mother grew the peach tree from a seed. For nearly a decade, my mother devotedly tended it in a pot as she searched for the sapling’s final home. When I found a suitable boy, my mother blessed me with the tree as a wedding gift. Last year, it finally escaped confinement and quickly established itself after planting. Yesterday, the peach blossom opened for the first time this year. It brings me great joy that this corner of a foreign field has been transformed by desi hands in honour of hope, love and new beginnings. Every year, that joy and blessing will be renewed.