The lilac tree behind our dustbins is blooming. I noticed its blossom glow the other evening, as we clapped the NHS. It always surprises me: that brilliant, elusive shade, somewhere between lavender and purple, which appears without warning each spring and fades within weeks to the colour and texture of dirt. Right now, the colour is rich as fresh paint yet also, mysteriously, light and powdery as blusher. In the cool evening air, the sweetness of its scent is dizzying.
I don’t know how the tree got there. It’s lived here longer than us – and we’ve been here nearly 30 years. Yet each year it startles me: the rest of the year it’s just a tangled thicket. And each year its unexpected blossom fills my heart with gladness.
It’s not just about the lilac. That gratuitous outpouring of colour marks a turning-point in my year, when the slow hang-over of winter is blown away by the realisation that, all around, nature is bursting back to life. In the lanes leading out of our village, verges froth with nettles and wild-flowers. There are bright white lambs in the fields; there’s a bounce in the turf; branches sag with fresh green leaves; and the days are as long as you want them to be. The more time you spend outdoors, the more you sense that elusive something that scientists call “geosmin” but most of us call “spring” – and the harder it becomes to keep out of your head the glib thought that all’s right with the world.
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