A seasonal reflection by Patrick O’Sullivan

When I was young, one of our old neighbours had a poem about spring. I remember her standing at the table, kneading the dough, the latter on a floured board, the old-fashioned wall clock beating out time on the wall, the firelight bright in the hearth.
I remember her reciting a few lines of poetry whenever she thought of them again:

You have to believe the buds will blow,
Believe in the grass in the days of snow.
Ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing,
On his darkest day, he believes in Spring.

It was years later I found out that the poem was written by Douglas Malloch, its twin themes of hope and happiness making it a great favourite in its own day:

You have to believe in happiness,
It isn’t an outward thing.
The Spring never makes the song, I guess,
As much as the song the Spring.

So many of us today though seem to think of happiness as ‘an outward thing,’ associating it as we do with externals such as wealth and property and foreign holidays.
I think the old woman kneading the dough had the right idea, for she had the good sense to be glad of the moment and make the most of it still: the decorative tea tins with their oriental motifs arrayed on the shelf above the hearth vases of cranberry glass on either side: the picture of the Sacred Heart looking down from its place of honour on a side wall.

All of this came back to me of late when I found the first snowdrop of the season in the garden, its nodding, drooping flower with a delicacy and fragility all of its own. It was in its way the simplest of things, the boughs of the old sycamore nearby lapped in lichens and mosses, and yet the tiny little snowdrop was a taken too, a token of things to come, a promise of new beginnings.

When I went for a cycle later in the day, I came across a patch of periwinkles in a shady nook of their own, the marvellous blue of the flowers the perfect foil for the splendour of the glossy green leaves. It is the easiest thing in the world to take flowers for granted in summer. There is such an abundance, an extravagance of them then that we come to expect them in garden and meadow and lane.

It is a different story in spring, and all the more so in early spring when flowers are few and far between. It was no great wonder then that I stood to admire the periwinkles a very long time, thinking as I did of a poem by Wordsworth, a poem called Lines Written in Early Spring:

Through primrose tufts in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths,
And tis my faith that every flower,
Enjoys the air it breathes

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own