I think that spring is my favourite time of the year. The coolness of the early morning air turned vaporous by a warming sun still low enough in the sky to not overpower. The land emerges from receding mists full and abundant, glowing with the rich, vibrant hues that dazzle the eye and lift the soul. The urgent buzz of new life restored after a long winter sleep fills the air and is intoxicating . It is a time of rebirth, of fertility, of youth and of life. I have been fortunate enough to witness fifty-seven springs burst into life then fade into hot summer. With the exception of probably the first five or so I have never lost the excitement of watching mother nature weave her magic. I would even venture to say that the first five or so seasons left their mark on an impressionable child but age has faded the memory of it. I have always been a believer in magic and don’t feel in the slightest bit embarrassed to admit it. In fact I would go further and say that I don’t believe, rather, I know there is magic. I have encouraged my children to see it and now I do the same with my grandchildren. Not just to see it, but to hear it, to feel it and to taste it in the deepest way possible. It’s not hard to do, just stop for a little while, be still and witness it being conjured all around us, in nature. In this season a most potent tincture is blended, a life enhancing potion drawn from the fecundity of the ever giving earth. She appears, at this time, in her guise as the Spring Maid, seductively dressed. Her alluring form garbed in a lush finery, she dances her magic over a pregnant land . Just stop and drink it in, there is no better nor a more intoxicating brew. It is full, heady and overflowing, a draught of the finest blend, life enhancing and sustaining. Sister winter is reluctant to end her reign however and returns still, but with decreasing force now. Her energy spent, the warming spell cast by the spring overpowers and diminishes her icy rule. This mock battle is as old as time itself, an endless mystery play. The stage is willingly given and set to act out the cyclic ritual to conjure up the spirit that pervades all, seen and unseen. An ancient circle dance is performed that engages something deep within. Unable or unwilling to resist, we dance to the muted strains of a dimly remembered tune that begs you to move to its primordial rhythm. It is a time of joy and of play, a time to bask in the gaze of a forgiving sun whose energy promises to rise as temperate spring dances into the heat of summer.
Of course the man/woman of today would proclaim, with arrogant confidence, that there is no magic in it. All can be explained by science and reason and that cold facts can drive away such mystical fantasies. But the fact is it can’t. Yes science will explain the mechanics and action of it, but it is lost, still, in dogmatic theory, probability and belief. As to the force that they believe drives it, it is all theory, all speculation and it is still a mystery. You can call this intelligent force by many names or none, it does not need our labels or our consent. It does what it does, ‘ I am that, I am’ is its mantra, it is ever a mystery and thus to me, it is magical. I am happy to know it, but equally, to never really KNOW it, blissful in my ignorance. Content at the unknowing of it, the energy drives this fertile season and I am lost to it.
What better way is there to soak up the joy of a spring day than in the delightful company of a child. Today (Sunday) I had the privilege of accompanying my youngest grandson on a walk through the “magic woods”. A place special to all the grandchildren where creatures, mysterious, lurk unseen in the undergrowth and that roam just the other side of imagination. Caves and arches formed by knotted branches hide the gate keepers to this enchanted world, still vivid to fertile minds as yet uncorrupted by the material woes and tormented hearts of adulthood. Here I am allowed to play for a while in his world, climbing trees, dodging well-aimed missiles in a pine cone fight, and enjoying the squeals of laughter that joyfully lights up this small but special place. I join him in his excitement as he flies and soars , precariously perched atop a tyre dangling at the end of a long thin rope. He swings and spins paying no attention to the danger of the drop below, the possibility of which filters uncomfortably into the uncertain mind of his adult companion ever open to doubt. But his joy draws out the child suppressed and I join him in the delight of the moment as he swings immersed in that innocent freedom which is a gift given to youth. Then, exploring the woodland we drum on fallen trees with sticks to call the mythical woodwose urging him to cross the veil and to step from his hidden kingdom. We wait a short while but he does not come, briefly the boy is lost in the excitement of expectation, maybe next time. We marvel together at the equally mysterious creatures of this world too. At a strange-looking insect that forages for food on elder flowers that permeate the woodland with their pungent essence. At the scurrying woodlice uncovered as enquiring little hands gently peel back the bark of a decaying tree. Lifted high on shoulders he cautiously explores knot holes, little gloomy caverns that penetrate deep into the heart of an ancient oak. What treasures or hidden creatures lie in its depths is only limited by his imagination. Still perched upon aching, but willing, shoulders we knock little puffs yellow of pollen from pine cones and he is lost in the wonder of it as I try to explain the small, but important, part he has just played in conjuring some magic as smoky streams of pollen drift on the breeze ensuring the generations of woodlands yet to come. We walk and talk and play for a while then, all too soon, the day is done. I return him, reluctantly, to my daughter glad to have shared this special time with him. His mum tells him to thank me for taking him out which he does willingly and with a loving hug. As I drive away, content in the bond that has been reinforced, I know in my heart that it is I that should be thanking him for allowing me the privilege of spending time in his joyous company.
Inspired by the magical sight of a Hare darting for cover at my approach. I wrote the following verse. There is something very other worldly about this illusive creature that both captivates and fascinates. For me the Hare is an ethereal animal rarely seen it haunts the fields and the margins and in this verse I imagine the Spirit of Hare as a presence in this and another, more mysterious world. The artwork came later but I hope captures the mood of the words.
The Spirit of the Hare
I am the herald of the Spring,
The harbinger of life renewed am I,
A fleeting shadow, a hedgerow form,
A dweller of the margins, you will not see me.
I am the phantom of the borders,
Where day and night meet,
A spectre in a sleeping land, lighted by mistress moon,
Into silver threaded mists I silently fade, you will not hear me
A true creature of nature I, born of The Mother,
The alchemy of life combines in me,
Rich earth, sweet dew of morning, the fire of dawns spark,
These form my bone, my blood, my sinew, you will not control me.
I am the mystery of natures call to life,
When Lord Sun brings warmth to awakening land,
Full throbbing with the ache of fertility,
To seed new life, you will not restrain me.
I am the creature you long to see,
In full view the bare, ploughed earth masks my form,
Under the vast celestial firmament you may find me,
But quick of foot, fleeting as a falling star, you will not catch me.
I am known by many names,
Bandy, Wat, Sally, Sukey,
But no label conjured by man will define me,
Much more than animal am I,
I am the pure force of the living land,
No flesh imprisons me, no world confines me.
I am the walker between the veils,
The trickster, The portent of doom,
And the bringer of good fortune too.
This and more is said of me,
But you do not know me.
I am the mystery of life,
I am the myth, a totem, a glyph.
Forever hidden from tortured hearts,
Chained minds curse my liberty and in that torment,
You cannot ever know me.
I am freedom, I am liberty, the driving lust for life itself,
I am of the earth, the air, the water and the fire,
I am the reminder of your long occulted nature,
Of the paradise lost,
I am of the hidden realms of fey and of the angels too,
I am The Spirit Of The Hare.
Nigel Canham 2016