It’s that time of year when we spend more time outdoors in the light than indoors hibernating. And, the world is coming alive.
Yesterday evening’s traverse through and along well-familiar paths in our old neighbourhood was lovely. We’ve walked (and run) those well-worn paths hundreds of time in all kinds of weather and at various times throughout the year. Yesterday, those paths offered multiple views with perhaps fresh eyes, resembling some sort of post-apocalyptic dystopian landscape against a dramatic, grey sky. It was somewhat surreal. Both old and new. Perhaps that was simply our perspective this particular spring.
The trees are just beginning to bud. The ferns and grasses and low-lying vegetation haven’t begun to spring and shoot up. And, few flowers have yet to break through the surface of the just-unfrozen topsoil. Water flows through various creeks once again, with signs that everything was covered in a thick layer of snow not that long ago a distant memory.
Spring is springing in southern Finland once again. Even if things look a little weathered and weary, the old world is looking a little fresher and new.
As the world springs back to visible life in Helsinki each year, tiny seemingly imperceptible changes create what one friend referred to as a ‘green haze’. It’s incredible. And, such a contrast from the sepia monotones of winter.
Each evening as we stroll through our neighbourhood for our daily peripatetic spousal bonding sessions, we can’t help but notice the tiny explosions of life that seem to change immensely from one day to the next rather than from week to week.
Yesterday, we ventured down (and up) a path we’ve never explored before. The views from the top were truly stunning, particularly given the calm water below and the blue, blue skies above. And, everywhere that green haze of new leaves and grass and even moss and lichen.
Closer to ground, the buds of new leaves and fleeting fresh flowers provide close-up signs of that change from one season to another.
Regardless of the particular lens — macro or wide and expansive — these signs move us forward from the slumber of winter to the rejuvenation and rebirth of spring.
It seems like we wait all year for spring to arrive in Helsinki. This year in particular — a mere two weeks ago we endured days of snow flurries and living in a giant snow globe when our feet should have been enjoying the freedom of sandals. But, whenever that shift from winter to new growth arrives, there’s an unnatural greenness to the landscape which never ceases to surprise, delight and amaze me. Each and every year.
I don’t know if it is simply the newness to the green leaves or the sudden explosion of them everywhere. Leaves seem to grow overnight, transforming from tiny buds to giant leaves so, so quickly. But, this green. This green against the darker trunks of some of the indigenous trees becomes fluorescent. Add in the budding green shoots of the grass, the insanely loud cacophony of the birds screaming for their mates and the lengthening days and shadows of those long summer evenings, and you can’t help but smile and feel alive.
Winter—the long, dark, greyness of winter—often seems never-ending and at times unbearable. So when spring comes, perhaps my mind simply doesn’t recognise the loveliness that is this new growth, leaving me confused and processing that colour as something almost other worldly.
Whatever it is about spring and this green we experience in the far North, I welcome it. It is truly glorious and I’ll soak it in for as long as it lasts. After my class this morning, I was standing at a bus stop marvelling at the dark blue, stormy sky of summer as the backdrop to those bright green leaves of new growth. Those are the moments we carry with us as we suffer through the darkness. Simultaneously, those are the images we forget on the darkest days as a way of perhaps protecting ourselves from the darkness. And, those are the images we delight in each spring.
It takes a specific mindset to survive in this environment and not lose all hope of the sun returning to it’s brilliant glory. And, looking at trees in winter, it’s hard to imagine them ever living again. Perhaps this is what makes summer so incredibly glorious and wonderful.
Whatever makes the leaves this green, I’ll take it.
There is something so comforting and uplifting about the first songs of the various birds as they return to our neighbourhood each spring. Some of these birds return much earlier than we ever expect. Some disappear far too soon with summer solstice. But, from the Annoying Bird of Spring to the plentiful blackbirds and nightingales, we’ll take them all. And, most of all, we’ll delight in their songs.
Yesterday evening as The Cuban and I enjoyed the lengthening day which also marks the beginning of the end of winter and the imminent arrival of spring, we were delighted to hear the blackbird’s song and its return to our hood.
For whatever reason, both of us love the blackbird above all others. Its song is so joyful, almost playful. Even the worst days are made somehow better when the blackbird sings from high atop the trees across the street from our flat. Maybe it’s that its song rings loudest at the end of the day just before darkness descends, somehow serving as a beacon to guide us home. In the woods near our flat, the blackbird’s song is the loveliest of all. Its resonance and pitch almost light up the woods even as the sun fades below the horizon.
Maybe we simply love the blackbird’s song because we both love the Beatles.