Spring is a collage of blossom. My favourite is the wild cherry: luminous cups languidly dangling from purple stems; tiny anthers dusting the blooms with turmeric sprinkles. The blossom is beyond white – as though composed not of matter, but purely of light. There is nothing in nature as joyous as a wild cherry in full blossom. I haven’t painted since early in the year, but the cherry blossom inspired me to try to capture it, with brushstrokes as nonchalant as the tree itself. Hawthorn is the traditional Beltane blossom but, though clusters of flower buds are ready to burst, only a smattering of the blooms has appeared in time for May Eve. If there is one word that can be used to describe Beltane, it is abundance. It’s a festival of sensuality, when we celebrate all the fruitfulness of the earth. Spring was sluggish last year, but this spring has been gloriously different. And the rampant cherry blossom has symbolised the season for me this year.
This has been a season of wanton blooming, a fitting prelude to Beltane. It caught me by surprise. One moment I was plodding through the dull winter that was barely a season at all and the next, a profusion of daffodils and blossom confronted me. I think it may have caught the insects by surprise too, because it was only as the daffodils started to wither that they appeared. I saw my first bees in early April, my first butterfly just a week ago. They are still just a few straggling pioneers, still hidden from view. And though I haven’t yet seen my first spider, they have been quietly busy. In the dew of early morning, their webs astound me, sparkling on the edge of ponds, strung across budding trees and nestled carefully in the undergrowth.
Everywhere, there is new green – a hundred shades of it. And everywhere, points or masses of colour, as the flowers bloom. Marsh marigolds and cowslips offer carpets of yellow. Dog violets flash purple in the undergrowth. Butterbur blooms like an alien forest. I learned recently that catkins, too, are flowers, straggling from trees or like fluff on the edge of branches. Whorls of budding leaves seem like blossom in themselves. And as though woken by the blooming of the world around them, the birds and the mammals make themselves known. Ponds awash with fowl: mallards, tufted duck, moorhens, coots and geese. A grey heron, dominating the sky like the messenger from the gods he is believed to be. And a brown hare, watching from the undergrowth around his burrow – you can see him in one of these photos if you look very closely!
The growing time is almost over. It is time for ideas and projects to bloom. I’ve been growing stories: six new short stories since the dark of the year and another almost ready to blossom. And my novel is finally fully grown. Some of them are already out in the world, awaiting their fate. But I’ll be using the energy of the coming waxing moon and conjuring a little natural magic to help my novel on its way. And perhaps, now that the light half of the year is beginning, I’ll feel the urge to fledge the paintings that still nest in my imagination.
As Beltane draws in, we’re doing the last of our spring cleaning, cleansing the house both physically and spiritually to make space for the summer energy to flow in. There are many goddesses associated with Beltane, but this year, I’ll be seeking the qualities of the goddesses of the forests, the hills and the wild places for the vital, energetic power they bring. Beltane is for celebrating, so, once the house is cleansed and all the preparations for my work are done, I’ll be pausing to celebrate what I’ve achieved so far this year. But Beltane is also a time of promises, so before the summer begins in earnest, I’ll make a promise to myself, so that my creative goals are nurtured to their full bloom.