This is my favourite time of year, when Mother Nature wakes from the long, deep sleep of winter. The branches of trees are dusted with fresh new green, and the woods are alive with the gentle colours of primroses and bluebells.
There is something so optimistic about the coming of the light, and the understanding that life always, always emerges from darkness. I am (you might have guessed) a passionate gardener, constantly amazed that a few bulbs planted in a pot should bring such beauty. A little love and attention is rewarded with extraordinary generosity.
I wish the same could be said of people, as much as I love them. And I do love them. I believe that we are all essentially good (I am as passionate an optimist as I am a gardener) but across the seasons that essential goodness is layered with shades of darkness. Underneath the angry, violent man is a child longing for affection. The drunk on the street has taken one wrong step and plunged over the precipice into black depression only alleviated by the anaesthetic of alcohol.
We believe we are somehow immune and it is all too easy to judge, and be judged, and that, I think is why I love gardening so much. In a garden or a wood brimming with bluebells, there is no judgement, and, rather like people, if you put a plant in the wrong place, forcing it out of its natural habitat, it will not thrive. It will slowly descend into the dark earth from which, if you do not rescue it, it will wither and die.
Food, light and loving attention will make it flourish and reveal its essential beauty. There is healing to be found in a garden and comfort in the knowledge that however difficult things may seem at the time, change is perpetual. The bleak skeletons of trees in hard, cold winter will always burst into joyous life.
When I was very ill with depression, I made a garden. It was a gloomy space, overrun with brambles and darkened with neglect, but slowly (as slowly as I did) it came back to life until it was a place of sunshine and beauty. There was a tree at the end of the garden, statuesque and magnificent. I watched it through the seasons, lashed by freezing winds and rain, bowed by storms and blizzards but it never gave up and so I thought, why should I? There were times when it looked as miserable as I felt, but I held onto the thought that one day, it would blossom.
And it always did. If we need to be reminded of a small miracle, it is surely that. Nothing stays the same, good or bad, but, perhaps fortunately, a tree has no imagination. They don’t think, bleakly, that it will always be winter, just as a tulip doesn’t decide it will always be marooned under a blanket of earth.
There is always hope and the never ending certainty that one day spring will come. It may seem a long time coming, but I do know, with absolute certainty, that it will. I was in the dark with severe depression for four long years, and there are times when I still descend into the darkness, when even the garden holds no pleasure and I am as indifferent to the roses as I am to food (both great pleasures) but at times like those, I think of that tree, and find comfort and hope because hope, like the first primrose, springs eternal, and let us never forget that.