so many longings
© Mary Robinson 2019
Every year I write a spring poem for friends. Spring was traditionally a time of poetic rejoicings. But now spring has become more complicated. It's is an ambivalent season and I don't just mean the sudden lurches in weather. The decline in species is alarming. How many swallows will return? Where have the cuckoos gone? Where are those prodigal drifts of primroses I remember on the grass verges in my childhood? Fewer moths come in through an open window on a warm evening. Insects are on the decline. Spring is coming earlier but at a cost. New shoots have to fight their way through discarded cans and plastic. Scarcely a day goes by without another environmental warning in the news. But I also think it is vitally important to celebrate and value what we have.
For a few years there was a clootie tree by the side of Derwentwater. Clootie trees and clootie wells are a remnant of pre-Christian folk religion which more recently seems to have had a dash of Tibetan prayer flags added. The belief is that by the time the clooties (as in clout - 'ne'er cast a clout till May is out') have rotted away a prayer/wish/desire for healing will have been granted. But whereas natural fibres biodegrade with time, artificial fabrics merely fade and cling on stubbornly. It seems a terrible thing to do to a tree. I think in the end someone took a step-latter and removed the offending rags.
My mother loved hazel catkins and each spring would cut some from the hedgerow to put in a jug with daffodils. After a while the table would be dusted with a soft drift of yellow pollen. While the other trees are still wintrily bare the hazels are decked with twitchy-tailed catkins (a lovely word from middle Dutch, katteken - a kitten) - sometimes lambs' tails in English.
I've noticed a lot of hazel catkins this spring. It's as if the hazels in the hedgerows have been hung with decorations. I think that made me think of the idea of a natural clootie tree, not only biodegradable but with the source of future life.