As bleak as winter was

As bleak as winter was, as lush is this early summer. The contrast is staggering. We go off the woodland paths while we still can, before the vegetation grows too thick. The breeze is warm, the light plays softly on leaves, blades of grass, wings of insects. To vague layman’s eyes like mine it’s a nice tranquil scene at first sight, but I know from my old naturalist friends that these woods are full of millions of specific, urgent activities only a tiny fraction of which I see or understand. I know that the hawthorns, bluebells and cowslips are blooming, and hoverflies, bees and butterflies are out in abundance. Jays mob something in a tree, maybe a sparrow hawk or kestrel, says S. She spots finches, warblers, frontrunner swifts, some unusual bird whose name escapes me. She tells me the birds might be on their second or even third broods already. A muntjac stops and stares at us with wide eyes until a couple of playful squirrels scare it off. We walk back to the cottage full of sun and life.

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