We are bang in the middle of what is my favourite time of the year because the period between mid February and mid March is one filled with hope. The dark days of winter are behind us and the days are becoming noticeably lighter as each day passes, not only that but the quality of the light itself is brighter and sharper.
Every year I look forward to the sight of the first snowdrops in late January. These delicate little white flowers with their bobbing heads somehow manage to burst forth through the cold ground of winter to herald the return of another cycle of life. But nature really starts to burst forth in greater abundance around 14 February, Valentine’s Day.
Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of St Valentine’s death or burial—which probably occurred around A.D. 270. However, the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianise” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the Ides of February, or 15 February, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
As we take our daily exercise I am sure, like me, you are aware of the subtle changes taking place in the fields, hedgerows and trees that we pass. Grass is showing signs of growth, the catkins on the hazel trees have a golden glittery sheen as they move in the breeze, and there is an almost imperceptible haze of green starting to appear in the hedgerows. A closer look reveals buds swelling in preparation to burst forth as we move from winter into spring. Look higher up and you will see birds starting to build nests. All of this is accompanied by an increase in birdsong as males sing to attract a mate.
In the garden the crocuses, daffodils and hellebores are the new stars of the show at ground level accompanied by trees swathed in catkins and witch hazel at eye level. Everywhere you look life is bursting forth.
If you are fortunate enough to have a pond it is highly likely that frogs have been gathering to spawn. On a visit to the Community Orchard this week I was hoping to see some frogspawn but there was none. This will be the second year this has occurred since someone deposited goldfish into what had been for 10 plus years a wildlife pond full of life. Despite the best efforts of the volunteers to remove the goldfish, they continue to take a toll on the dragonfly and other larva resulting in a severe decline in the pond’s wildlife. I am still hopeful that the frogs will find their way to the pond and spawn once again this year.
It is not only nature that is champing at the bit to get out and celebrate the coming of sunshine and longer hours of daylight. We humans are just the same. Feeling the sun on my face at this time of year makes me want to close my eyes and look up at it and howl like a wolf. There is nothing like that first blast of natural vitamin D to raise the spirits. And boy, do we need our spirits raised after the long, cold, dark months of winter.
This winter we have not only had to endure the usual hardships but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been locked down as well. The urge to get outside and enjoy life once again is only natural but we need to do so with care. The overwhelming majority of people over 60 in the local area have now had the opportunity to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and the level of uptake has been extremely high. For those now vaccinated, it is tempting to feel you are now immune and safe from harm.
However, we need to remember that the 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.
That said there is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have had the vaccine.
This means it is important to:
- continue to follow social distancing guidance.
- if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people
- wash your hands regularly
We still have a long way to go before we can feel truly safe. Until that time, it remains vital that we follow the simple rules we have become used to in order to continue to protect ourselves and those around us.
The sun may be out but the dark days are not over yet. REMAIN VIGILENT AND STAY SAFE