February Morning

Purple Field Scabious in bloom, against a blurred background of green foliage.
Knautia arvensis: Field scabious

Cloud hangs heavy in the warm, wet air, stretching out in banks across the low sky. Blackbirds sway in the holly tree, their heads seeming to skim the cloud as all perspective is lost under this great, grey blanket. Smaller birds, blue tits and wrens, jig along branches of rowan, snapping intermittently at sleepy grubs foolishly stirring into a false spring.

Far below, new ferns glisten in the leaf litter, sharp bright green against the browning fronds of last summer. Tiny white flies meander on thin currents, and a ripe scent rises from the damp earth, musty and moist.

I sit in the dull quiet of the garden. Even traffic is subdued today. In this still grey world of fences and low sky, sounds are restricted to where they are uttered, and bird calls take on an immediacy. The sparrows’ witter is interjected with the crow’s croak and the robin’s whistle as all their daily dramas unfold.

I worry about the lack of direct sunlight and how this will inhibit new plant growth; we have made a cloudy world and messed up the water cycle – sunlight and water, the two things my plants really need.  

So far, only small clumps of ox-eye daisy and geraniums have emerged, blinking into the light. Their incremental growth teases me that one day, in early summer, everything will link into a thicket of flowers. Nothing wakes in the spaces between – rudbeckias, scabious, potentilla – for them, it is still winter.

Ignorant of the activity around us, endless cycles of decay and rebirth play out in the dark earth. Pale, mycelial fingers pull at all the strings. Drawing everything into themselves – animal, vegetable, mineral – fungi are the silent gods of the underworld. It will be their doing, when the first rosettes of rudbeckia return. It is their whim, not mine, that determines who gets what nutrients when, deciding the moment the scabious and potentilla appear.

Ancient and integral, fungi map all our lives. Overseers of life and death, for all the damage we have done, we still dance to their tune.