• Whole Sheep

Signs of Spring

When I was a child, we used to go up to the wilds of Scotland every Easter and, while there, we played a game called ‘Signs of Spring’. We’d trek out into the woods and bogs and look for emerging primroses or buds on trees. In my mind. these were child-led adventures, and we’d take a sample of whatever we found and carry our collection back to the house to be counted by a grown-up. For every ‘Sign of Spring’ we’d get a penny, and 20 or 30p was considered a pretty good haul. Spring comes late to the wilds of Scotland, and the game may be more lucrative (or costly) further South. But the joy of the game was that it really made you feel like Spring was coming and the discovery of each sign was exciting and valuable – and I don't think the value only came from its new monetary value. Looking back, the collection of the sample may not have been a good idea, but I think our footprint was fairly light – and even then we did not want to decimate the few signs we could find. New versions of the game might use camera phones or other more imaginative ways of recording.

I’m going to play a more extended non-pecuniary game myself this Spring as an antidote to the seeming never-endedness of lockdown. I hope it will force myself to think more about hopeful signs that are emerging and to listen as birdsong begins again. The prospect of the game immediately raises many questions – is a snowdrop a sign of Spring? Or Winter? For Wordsworth it was a ‘harbinger of Spring’ so I suppose not a sign of Spring in itself. But with each snowdrop’s ‘ice-pure sepals’ marked with a ‘triplet of green-pencilled snow’ (Walter de la Mare, The Snowdrop, 1929) they are certainly worth pausing to admire while waiting in anticipation of more Signs of Spring to come.

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