Holy Saturday

The big news from the nature reserve this week is that the tadpoles have hatched. Last week we had frogspawn; this week we have tadpoles! They’re difficult to see, since they’re about the same colour as the bottom of the pond. Midday was the best time of day to see them. At the ends of the day I mostly saw the reflection of trees round about the pond. And it was impossible to take their photo! Anna and I also saw some peacock butterflies, which also moved too fast to be captured in a photo. But there were some things that stood still.

My own vegetable patch (top left) has been planted: potatoes, onions, leeks, and beets. Carrots, radishes, and salad greens are in big pots, and the tomatoes are in small, plantable pots. We’ll see. I’ve never had much luck with tomatoes on this side of the Atlantic. The sheep are self-explanatory, and I’m not sure what is flowering in the top right corner. Ditto for the weed with the lovely flowers in the next row.

I think the budding tree might be a sycamore, the one without any leaves is an alder (another late leafer), and the last is a willow, of course. The bird is a bullfinch, unless I am mistaken.

Apart from the forget-me-nots, the flowers are all in my front garden. I planted some bulbs in December, and I’m very glad I did. It has been great to watch them grow, and satisfying, since I am not good at growing anything I can’t eat.

The odd one out is the pizza. But it is a family favourite, all made from scratch and cooked at ridiculously high temperatures on Lewis’s Big Green Egg. Pizza night was Maundy Thursday. We joined the Dominicans at Blackfriars in Oxford for the Mass, and we will tune in again tonight for the Vigil.


This week I have watched the death toll rise and feared for all the vulnerable. There are no words.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. 

The cruelest month?

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain.

I’m not sure whether April really is the cruelest month, but this year it might be. By all accounts, the pandemic is bound to get worse before it gets better. It hasn’t been a happy week, but at least my family are all well, so I must summon some gratitude and get on with it.

The natural world carries on without regard to the number of new COVID-19 cases (on the rise) or the stock market (not on the rise). Birds still flit to and fro carrying nest-making materials, singing their usual songs, and occasionally staying still long enough for me to identify them.

Early springtime is erratic. One day, we have sunshine and almost-warm weather; the next, it’s blowing a gale and threatening snow. The signs of spring are also inconsistent. The oaks still think it’s winter, while the gorse blooms bright yellow.

And in a strange twist of fate (par for the course this week), wordpress won’t let me upload any new photos. Cruel. 


Signs of spring

A small but significant thing I miss: chatting with the folks who work at the local co-op. Strange as it seems, those brief interactions with relative strangers—talking about the weather, mostly—were an important part of my day-to-day life.

Yes, folks. I am an extrovert. Guilty as charged. A friend on facebook suggested that the time for misanthropic introverts has come. Great, I’ll just bring out my inner misanthropic introvert then. Oh, wait, I haven’t got one of those!

So I am here, chatting to the blogosphere—all you relative strangers—about the weather. That’s right: I plan on posting a ‘small talk’ blog once a week, to prevent myself going mad from the lack of human interaction. I propose to share with you some of the signs of spring that I have seen on my daily walks. (Also essential for my sanity; I do maintain the requisite distance from any walkers I see.) In part, I want to pay attention to spring for deeper, more theological and spiritual reasons. But mostly, I just want to talk about the weather.

This week in the local nature reserve:

I am no expert, so feel free to correct me (or fill in the blanks) here. From top left: blossoms on the hawthorn tree, daffodils, frogspawn. (I have been checking almost every day to see whether the tadpoles have emerged.) Bottom row, from left: a pheasant, willow blossoms on the path, candelabra primroses and narcissus.

If I were more technologically astute, I’d include some bird song. Here again, I am definitely no expert. Our woods are full of birds. I’ve seen blue tits and long-tailed tits, great tits and a bullfinch, all the usual suspects (magpies, blackbirds, pigeons of all sorts, crows, and robins), plus a jay and a load of others I’ve yet to identify.

Most of the week was spring-like: sunny and almost warm (I’m from Southern California, so what passes for ‘warm’ here doesn’t impress me). Today, though, I wore my big coat, and I needed it when the wind got up and closed the gaps in the clouds overhead, and the rain began. (Best not to think about the laundry I left on the line—ever the optimist!) I wasn’t sorry I’d ventured out, but I was glad to have the appropriate attire! Now, as I write, the sun has emerged again and I see blue sky between the clouds.

Spring is coming, and it seems completely unaware of the predicament we humans are in. The flowers are blooming and so are the trees, the lambs have been born and the birds are nesting. And for all these signs of spring, I am grateful.