Meandering paths of green
Country Life UK|May 12, 2021
Mermaid, palmetto, celadon, viridian and mintleaf: Steven Lovatt gets lost on a pleasurable wander through Nature, language and many shades of green
Steven Lovatt

IT was on a mid-February morning that a westerly brought the first hints of spring. Since then, despite hesitancy and downright back-tracking—snow at Easter, a sheen of dew each April dawn— the hints have become a pledge, something to hang our hopes on after a frightful year.

On that first morning of promise, I sat with my back against the abandoned bowling pavilion, eyes screwed tight to the rising sun, and listened to the birdsong from the surrounding trees, mingled with the dog walkers’ ritual pleasantries. When I’d warmed up, lizard-like, and the pink glow behind my eyelids had become uncomfortably bright, I walked down to the little ornamental strip that’s fenced off from the rest of the park. There’s a streamlet here, landscaped long ago down some mossy steps for the soothing plash, and also a stand of bamboo and some exotic trees. Around all these had sprung up, seemingly overnight, an ecumenical array of snowdrops and crocuses. The pure white snowdrops depended over the grass and the crocuses, all different confessions of yellow and purple, stood proud in their little mitres.

As I looked at a purple patch clustered at the roots of a dwarf willow, a bird veered into the tree, clung tightly to its trunk and then, hardly pausing, began to twitch and shuffle around the bark—a treecreeper. It was very low down, foraging barely above the knuckled roots where the light reflecting back from the water rippled pale gold, as if a cold fire flickered there at the bole and its patterns danced on the trunk and the crabbed winter branches. Now, a treecreeper is almost exactly the colours of a halved almond, but as this one entered the zone of delicate, complicated light created by light, water and petal pigment, its pure white breast, turned momentarily towards the flowers, went bone blue by crocus light. Although the bird soon moved on to another tree, since then, I have become a delighted scholar of colours.

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