As part of my residency, I wanted to set myself a challenge that would span the month of February, and I decided to keep a nature diary of sorts, looking out for signs of spring. These could be well-recognised ones like flowers blooming, birds laying eggs, warmer days and lighter evenings, but I also paid close attention to what spring means to me.
Since the Covid pandemic began, I have spent much more of my time at home or on walks, and have tuned in to changes in my environment and daily life: the first night each year that I take the top quilt (I have two in winter) off my bed, the first flies sneaking into my flat, bats over the river, and my favourite constellations in the sky.
I looked at February as a month of change, bridging winter and spring, and I was perhaps expecting a linear pattern, with the days progressively getting warmer and lighter. That wasn’t the case – there was the cold, wet, windy weather later in the month, and after having happily removed my top quilt, I had to admit defeat and replace it a couple of weeks later.
There wasn’t a neat, smooth transition between seasons, but a messy back-and-forth which actually rang very true to me, when I reflected on my life and challenges during this time, such as getting used to going out to events and being with groups of people again. This – like February – is a work in progress, happening at its own pace.
Keeping this diary has definitely affected the way I perceive my world, and how I write. It has already led to several poem drafts – about dinosaur-like swans, and sparkly post-rain trees – and I am looking forward to working on the many other glimmers of ideas that have come out of it. I hope you enjoy reading my spring diary, and consider keeping one yourself. You never know what you might notice!
1st – Exciting fungi near canals. Stepped outside at 6pm and was dark. “It’s dark!” we said.
2nd – Bats over the river! 😃
3rd – Rested arms on cold brick wall of bridge and imagined it warm, like in summer. It may as well be warm now, because just the thought made me happy, and felt real.
4th – Snowdrops by canal. Or maybe white crocuses. Rested chin on bridge wall. Still cold.
5th – Lots of condensation on my window, a perfect mosaic. Felt very cold at night.
6th – Went out at 4.45pm and it was still light! Chinese New Year in town. Rain, hailstones, red lanterns.
7th – Air very still at night.
8th – Saw chunky dead rat. Ground slippery, kept nearly falling.
9th – In early hours, put head out of window and air was cool, not cold, as if it must have warm underneath. Birds singing in the woods.
10th – Really sunny. Slept under half of my top quilt, the rest folded back. Outside, crispy light around edges of clouds. Later, halo round moon. Sky very glassy. Orion.
11th – Nice cool breeze at night. Fly on my doorframe.
12th – Rain. Seemed to be very warm. Took off top quilt completely.
13th – Went to my baking group in the rain.
14th – One more blanket off my bed. At night, low cloud, sky above it clear. Sparkly star.
15th – Felt warm in my jumper. Green sky at night, misty rain.
16th – Nearly 6pm and still light. Sky pale blue. Sunset later, gold in windows. People doing work outside, loud. Storm has blown sky open and clean.
17th – Rainy morning, quiet spells between showers. Had window open in afternoon. Was bright, felt kind of summery.
18th – Very, very windy and rainy.
19th – Saw a sparkly tree, after the rain-snow. Couldn’t stop looking, trying to memorise it. Everything was new. At night, people partying.
20th – Rain, hailstones like snow on the ground, scary wind.
21st – The three cygnets from last year sleeping all together, floating in canal, away from parents. Finally saw constellation of Leo. Stars very clear.
22nd – A bird singing back and forth like a creaky gate. Purple, white and yellow crocuses and daffodils. Gorse golden in last sun.
23rd – Rainy. No thunder. Seemed to get dark very fast between 6 and 7pm.
24th – Such heavy rain in the evening. Put top quilt back on bed.
25th – Lots of flowers in planters in Bolton. Daffs near home. Red berries on the holly.
26th – Out at nearly 6pm and it was so light, sky blue and orange, town full of people.
27th – Beautiful day. Still mild in evening. Daffs and crocuses by canal. Sky went through shades of blue, not straight to dark. Felt like spring night. Huge heron on river.
28th – Not much to report today. Have been very tired.
March 1st – Chunky crow digging in grass. A nest by the canal, perfect little blueish eggs. Two swans, and a cygnet, very separate. Amazed at how big the cygnet is now.