Firsts

Spring is a season of firsts. The first crocuses. The first snowdrops. The first daffodils. A piece of tangled waste ground offers the season’s first coltsfoot flowers, lemon discs among frazzled grass. I see my first bee on the edge of the park, frantically seeking nectar, a day after the spring equinox. The hawthorn leaves are unfurling. Daisies and dandelions scatter the grass and crocuses have given way to lesser celandine. There are other firsts throughout the year – the first snow, the first leaves turning – but no season offers as many firsts as spring.

On the eve of the equinox I have my first Covid vaccination. My wife and I visit the local sports centre and have our jabs together. It is quick, friendly and efficient. We walk home light-footed, stickers on our jackets proclaiming we’ve been vaccinated. That night I dream vividly. I am standing at the edge of a canal in a perfect, purple dawn. The landscape is luminous, as it often is beside water at sunrise. Water and land seem to seep into each other so I can’t be sure which I am walking on. I am filled with peace. Later, some tiny birds have been caught in a spiders’ web and I have to gently brush strands of spider silk away from their feathers to set them free – I wake not knowing if I succeeded.

The cemetery is shades of green and yellow. The crocuses are all but gone now, but the daffodils are in full bloom: clumps and trails and sunbursts in and around the graves. I see my first primroses: less abundant and less showy than the daffodils, they form delicate clusters close to the ground. I find a handful of wood anemones and a single spray of snake’s head fritillary. A few early bluebells stipple the ground and pink blossom droops from a group of gracefully spreading trees.

There is a soundscape of birdsong. The great tit is the star of the bird choir, in volume if not tunefulness, with others as a quieter accompaniment. Magpies chirrup high up in the trees. I see a crow in the long grass, a pair of collared doves silent in a tree above, a trio of woodpigeons resting on a grave. Most of the birds are busy in the canopy, staking claim to territory and perhaps building the first nests of the season.

Spring’s firsts never lose their charms. I have seen fifty springs but I still thrill at the first flowers shooting through the soil, the sound of a renewed dawn chorus and signs of new life. Every spring is the same and every spring is different. We can rely on the return of those same firsts, but we will never experience them in quite the same way. The lengthening days give us hope and energy, but I think it is also the profusion of firsts that stir our vitality at this time of year.

The first of our lockdown restrictions are lifted today. We are following a timetable that suggests we will be back to some kind of normality by the summer solstice. Nothing feels much different at the moment. I find it impossible to believe that in a few short months this will be over. I imagine us like children emerging from the pandemic, eyes squinting in the sunlight. I hope we approach it with childlike wonder, rather than teenage rebellion. Those first hugs. Those first outings. Those first holidays. They will be the foundation of a what might be a better future. I hope we savour them.

107 thoughts on “Firsts

  1. A lovely post that has lightened my mood and brightened my hope for the future. Thank you. I needed that. We are enjoying an equally lovely Spring in Virginia. Yesterday, we drove by a peach orchard in full bloom and it is honestly the first time I have seen peach trees in bloom. I want to return today to take pictures and hope it will inspire a short poem. This time before mosquitoes and humidity is a time to cherish, it never lasts quite long enough.

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  2. I enjoyed this rhythmical and wonder-filled account of your spring emergence, Andrea. Really appreciated the details of which birds you were seeing and hearing, which flowers had arrived, and the photos were lovely. The theme of “firsts” was threaded beautifully throughout. Thank you.

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  3. I have a certain amount of anxiety about that return; I’ve been hardened in many ways by this year-long winter and dealing with people again… At least I’ll be starting with them outside where the beyond-human side of life can mediate. Nature is a great facilitator.

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  4. Marvellous, Andrea, I was walking with you. I saw my first bumblebee here in my little garden in mid-February! It’s been hibernating since then πŸ˜‰. Your photos are lovely too! πŸ™

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  5. I agree with Alethea. This is a beautiful and hopeful post Andrea! I love your perspective of spring being filled with firsts and each spring has it’s own unique procession of life unfolding. I love watching and feeling spring unfold. Enjoy!

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  6. A lovely reminder of all that’s new in this season, and surely symbolic that you and your wife receive your first vaccinations as Spring unfurls and new life begins. May the lifting of restrictions proceed smoothly and safely for all.

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  7. The succession of spring ‘firsts’ is balanced down south by the drawing in of days, brilliant sunsets, crisp nights, the sound of nightjars accompanying the moonlight and a freshness in the morning air – a pleasure after the intense heat of summer πŸ™‚

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  8. Spring firsts are always such a delight and this year I am seemingly more grateful than I have been in many years, with a child’s enthusiasm and joy at being alive to witness this great annual miracle.
    Loved your dream, I often have water in my dreams, but have no idea how one interprets such, ‘flowing with life’ perhaps?
    I had my first jab on Saturday, and find it hard to imagine that one day we will be free of the mask. That is a first that I definitely look forward to.

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  9. I love how you and hence your writing are so grounded in the seasons of the year. It’s a remarkable (one of many) aspect of your voice. Just lovely. And I am so glad that you got your vax and that lockdown will be easing! That really feels like spring, doesn’t it? It’s as though we never had a spring last year!

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  10. I love the flower first – especially those in the cemetery. Glad you and your wife have had your first vaccination! I like that you got stickers, like “I voted!” stickers. Wish we had those here. Congratulations on the first lifting of the lock down. I imagine us coming out of this as if into the sunlight with squinting eyes. Best wishes, my friend!

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  11. Beautiful post today, Andrea. It’s wonderful to see everything blooming. We’ve had such strong winds over the past week, all of the Bradford pear trees lost their gorgeous blooms way too soon. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos.

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  12. Ah, your wonderful prose whets my appetite for when all those firsts arrive where I live. The snow is melting fast, so soon! Then I can note each emerging wildflower and the songs of returning birds (a few of which have already arrived). For some reason, I’m especially eager to greet the big, fuzzy bumblebees, last year being the first time I saw them in my wildflower garden.

    Such a hopeful time of year, made even more so this year after receiving vaccinations.

    As always, thanks for taking me along on your beautiful stroll, Andrea. I love visiting graveyards, and that one looks especially inviting with all the daffodils in bloom.

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  13. You have such finesse with nature writing, beautifully evoking the hope and vibrancy of new growth. I love the dream especially. All of those senses and feelings twisted together into something new. It reminded me a little of Daisy Johnson’s Fen (though not as dark) where the landscape and human worlds morph in unexpected ways.

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  14. What a beautiful spring post. So happy for you and your wife that you got your first shot. Still waiting for mine! I brought my mother for hers… no sticker, no lollipop – no nuthin! And, here in Quebec, we have to wait four months for the second shot. Sigh.
    Loved this post.

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  15. Thank you, Andrea. Fabulous!
    Aren’t Spring colours just the best? Breaking us in gently with white and green and then branching out to all the wonderful yellows, pinks, purples.
    So glad you have both had your jabs. It’s a big relief, isn’t it?
    Yes, HUGS! Cannot wait. πŸ€—πŸ€—

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  16. How can one comment on such insightful expressiveness, that mastery of words with such clarity and simplicity of colours and depth?
    I struggle for words how to reply every time, after having read how you see, feel and perceive your surroundings. Your words paint such a complete emotional picture in time and space.

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  17. I love to find a snake’s head fritillary – we don’t see many around here and I would like to plant some in the garden eventually. When we emerge from this, I very much hope for a better future.

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  18. Ha, I have now had both jabs πŸ™‚ Here in Jersey, daffs are grown commercially. This year they came up early and many were left unpicked for lack of labour. At least, in addition to the hedgerow displays this Spring we had full field displays.

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  19. What a dream, Andrea. Seems like there’s more to parse there. I’m glad you received your first shot. I got my first yesterday. I remain cautiously hopeful that we can put this behind us before the year is out. Your words and images are always beautiful and inspiring.

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  20. Andrea, a beautiful celebration of Spring Firsts and it is an honour to observe and hear them all! πŸ˜€ What a good idea that you and your wife could get the jab at the same time – this makes sense to me and is happening a lot in America but not heard of any other couples who could go together. It is a huge relief and yes, may the easing of restrictions be approached ‘with childlike wonder, rather than teenage rebellion’. I hardly dare the grand reopening will go to plan and still being super cautious! Have a lovely Easter, Andrea! πŸ˜€

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    • Thanks Annika, we’re lucky that our local GP surgeries banded together to open vaccination centres nearby, otherwise we’d have to travel out of our area. Since we’re both at the same GP and in the same group we got to go together! There were some terrible sights of rubbish left on nearby beaches and parks after last weekend so I really hope people have been more sensible and thoughtful this weekend…

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  21. Hello, Andrea, I hope you are well.
    To me, it seems that all of your thoughts and images on this wonderful post have been implanted into a gossamer-thin bubble of swirling colours, that have been floated my way, to be released before my eyes in a Supa-Nova of Spring freshness. Thank you.
    The arrival of Spring has given me the chance to reacquaint myself with my Bees. On the first visit to the Hives, I felt as though I was a parent checking on a child. I was rewarded for all of my efforts, and the endless hours of worrying about their well being, not with a delicious pot of honey, but with the season’s first stings, three of them.
    I look forward to reading your next post, Andrea; until then take care.

    P.S Say hello to Winston for me, please.

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    • Thanks Mick, I’m glad it gave you a flavour of spring.. Well, I suppose that wasn’t a great reward but at least it means they’re live and kicking πŸ™‚ Winston has been out sniffing every blade of grass today! How many dogs do you have Mick – I saw the photo of ‘Dolly Peg’ and do you still have your little terrier?

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      • Hello, Andrea. We don’t have a dog of our own. This is because it would mean more work and responsibility for Jack. So, what we do, is several times a year, we look after our friends Dogs; Dolly is one of these, the other is a little Jack Russell called Smudge.
        Our own Jack Russell, Noops, was a nine year old rescue dog when he came to join us. He spent a fabulous five years with us here at Ladybirch before passing away four years ago. He was treated like royalty, pampered from morning to night.
        Jack had a very strong bond with him, it upset her when he departed. Maybe that’s why we’ve not had another.
        I’m really keen to have a new pal in my life; we discuss the subject often. Somewhere out there, there’s a scraggy little mutt who’s fallen on hard times. We’ll find him/her.
        Catch you soon, Andrea. Take care.

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  22. Congrats on your first vaccines! It is most definitely a step towards “normalcy”. Your area is just so rich in plants and flowers, birds – I know you count yourself fortunate to have so much life, and so many springtime firsts so nearby. Love the daffodils in the graveyard. (Actually, love the graveyard.)

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  23. Beautiful writing Andrea, you’ve really summed up this spring. ‘Spring’s firsts never lose their charms’ – so true! And this year spring is more welcome than ever. Here in Cumbria the garden daffodils are blooming beautifully, the woods are full of chiffchaffs and wild daffodils, and we saw the first wheatears yesterday. Since the solstice it’s been a wonderful week of walks with friends and sunny weather.

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  24. Another beautiful post Andrea. Thank you. And I could add the first Chiffchaff, Swift and Cuckoo, though the latter two don’t usually arrive until mid May. And of course a bird you have written about before – the Nightjar!

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  25. Thanks for your beautiful writing. Yes, although we expect Spring to come it is a season of firsts. It is all these firsts that make us believe in renewal, awakenings and new hope.

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  26. I love your description of firsts around where you wander. I hope too that we continue to savor so many of the things we took for granted, and that moving forward we take care to nurture ourselves and our human and nonhuman communities.

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  27. Extremely late here, Andrea, for which I apologise. This is such a beautifully written piece and so full of hope! These first flowers of spring and the ever-increasing birdsong are so wonderful to see and hear. I had thought that the cold and snowy weather of the past few days would have halted things for a while but no! The leaves are still emerging and the birds and flowers are still in evidence, thank goodness! We got stickers with our first injections too – such fun! I have my second one booked for the 23rd of this month, 12 weeks after the first one, and I hope it goes ahead. I am pleased you and your wife got innoculated together – I hope neither of you had a bad reaction to the jab. My daughter was ill for a few days after hers.

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  28. Hello Andrea, There’s something about old graveyards that fascinates me. I loved the photos you’ve posted, with the sagging gravestones. Hurrah for your vaccination! You’ll feel more able to breathe now. Sending smiles form locked down Toronto. :))

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  29. What a beautiful read! So peaceful and serene it is that for a few seconds it makes me forget that the cases are rising again around us in India. It fills me again with hope and smile. I would like to remind myself once more that, this too shall pass.

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