"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
I reckon Spring works a bit like home made wine. For weeks, the demijohn sits in the airing cupboard full of inert liquid, with no sign of fermenting. A solitary bubble appears now and then to crawl up the glass, but there’s no action to speak of. Then suddenly, the wine starts to brew. Bubbles start pushing through the retort – bip bip bip bip bip – and you’re in business.
In the same way Spring sits around for a few weeks, gathering confidence. A snowdrop here and there, the odd woodpecker. Quite suddenly it gets off its arse, puts on its best green outfit, throws lambs and crocuses about as if they were going out of style, puts an Instagram filter on the hills and comes up looking like the credits for a Technicolour film.
It’s the first day of Spring. Tonight there will be a Supermoon and this morning, of course, we had the most impressive solar eclipse for fifteen years. I’m in North Yorkshire, on the last day of my annual getaway with writing friends. We’ve been staying in a Quaker house on the moors, and had perfect conditions for seeing the eclipse. There was just a negligee of cloud, and the big clean windows of the house gave us a perfect non-blinding reflection of the sun. We stood on the porch, eight friends drinking tea and saying Blimey, looking at the sky, being amazed together.
Oddly enough, at the last eclipse I was also on the North York moors. To be precise, I was up to my knees in a river, having been chased off neighbouring land by a man with a shotgun, riding a quad bike. It was a very peculiar day. I wrote this poem at the time –
August 11th 1999
He set his hives like landmines in the heather,
left the scene and headed back to Pateley Bridge.
Twenty thousand bees were settling,
arranging furniture, looking at the view.
Unwatched, the daylight moon slid neatly home
into its groove, as proper as a yolk to its egg.
The hour thickened like the moment before confession.
The universe showed its winning hand
Twenty thousand bees fell silent.
The sheep, embarrassed by the change in circumstance,
stood still. Birds, whose song
had watermarked the air, trailed off.
The prophets make libations to a different god each century
and still they are outflanked. Meanwhile, beekeepers
set their tiny charges, keep a weather eye:
untroubled, looking for sweetness in the high bleak places.
Some mad Christians think that with all these celestial shenanigans, today is the End Of The World. It feels rather like the beginning to me.