Sunday, 8 March 2009

Woodland Emerging

Woodland near Wrest Park, Silsoe.

The spring sun is bright in the cloudless sky. I'm in a patch of planted woodland, possibly limes, where the tall regimental creamy coloured trunks reach up the to the high canopy that murmers in the cold westerly wind. The landscape is full of strong verticals casting long parallel shadows hugging the ground. A bright green carpet arises from under the brown, crisp leaves of autumn past. The Dog's Mercury is so vivid when back-lit sunlight passes though their translucent leaves. The colour seems almost unnatural after a long cold winter. It is one of the first plants of the year to reach up out of the cold soil and into the space of birdsong: tits, chaffinch, blackbird, crow and woodpecker. A similar striking green is shown by the mosses on some decaying tree trunks. In contrast, there is the tall climbing shimmering dark green ivy, the almost mustard green of some sky high mistletoe, whilst a nearby field remains an unconspicuous pale green and expectant.

On the woodland floor the soft, crumbly drying leaves are being consumed by the earth and its inhabitants. The flat leaves are dissolving away leaving a curled fragile framework of stems and veins creating a more delicate and airy feel than just a wet mass of leaves of winter. These leaves will form new soil and, as the dog's mercury and bluebells reach up from the soil below, so their shapes will enter the shadows and be broken down further.

I look at a patch of earth that has been disturbed by either deer or some other animal scratching away at the woodland floor. I pick up a handful of the earth and smell it - it is so fragrant. So different to some soil I smelt last week in a recently ploughed corn field - you could hardly smell it at all. It just seemed to lack vibrancy, life and organic matter. Here, the earth is so beautiful. In this patch, no more than a foot square, I find a large number of snail shells - so much life in a small area. I don't think I had ever thought about how many snails lived in an area like this!

This is spring in motion and transition. A time of growth and hastening decay. The transparent and spacious landscape will soon be filled with leaves.

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