Spring, it strikes me all over again, is not guaranteed to be in the best of taste. What I mean is the period that might be called "high spring" spring just before it overflows into summer. Spring at the point of its most unstinting haste and gush. Its colors clash. Its chaos of greenness is in overload. It has no skill whatsoever in the art of understatement.
This year at least where I live, in the Northern Hemisphere until now the season has progressed with restraint, lingering with some dignity through careful, almost contemplative stages.
But now, tossing all care to the winds (and the rains), it "comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers." I am not quite as disenchanted with spring as was Edna St. Vincent Millay. In fact, I still find its "rush with richness" a stirring, if startling, business, and I happily reengage with Gerard Manley Hopkins on the subject. "What," he asks, "is all this juice and all this joy?"
This returning season remains an insistent reminder of an underlying and profoundly constructive inevitability.
All the same, if we forget what it is like from year to year, and expect spring to be kempt and polite, we are liable to find ourselves rudely taken by storm. I have been, this year.
On Sunday, I looked around and thought "It's here!" As I took the dogs out, I felt ambushed by a banditry of greenness all manner of greenness, from moss to lime, from butter-yellow to emerald, from copper verdigris to tarnished gold. And not only greens, but also russet and peach, rust and ochre, and even the glorious soft red of new copper-beech hedge leaves fresh against the dark purple-black of last year's growth. How could I have overlooked this arrival?
I don't know if it was merely a pressing absorption in theatrical matters this last week that meant I was not watching things outside. Forgetting, or mistiming, an entrance is an exigent dread for actors, amateur or professional. It concentrates the mind like imminent hanging.
Particularly on Saturdays, when we perform a matinee as well as an evening show, my fellow actors and I tend to lead a long, dark existence in the wings, like deeply subterranean miners, waiting for cues, getting ready to stride briefly out into the stage lights and then exit once again into the secretive shadows.
In no time, you forget that outside the sun happens to be brilliant and that trees, shrubs, and grass are scintillating in a swiftly developing natural drama. It makes our indoor efforts to amuse (in memorized tribute to Noel Coward's articulate froth) slightly pathetic. What on earth are we all doing inside on a day like this?
Having a small, frequently on-and-off role did mean, however, that I had a little time to pause and gaze out of the window on the stairs that afternoon on the way to the green room. And there, in all its utter, upstaging, overacting, candy-floss glory stood a double-flowered pink prunus in full bloom.
It is a tree with a trunk that has developed into an impressively big bole (for a prunus), wrinkled and seemingly age-old like an elephant's leg. Yet out of this unpromising column of wood as if it were a gigantic plain brown cardboard canister for an immense public-display firework spattered and exploded with astounding extravagance billow upon billow of strawberry ice-cream blossom, an overblown accumulation of excessive flowering.
I should have realized what it portended. It represented high spring, this outrageous canopy, this impossible dowager-duchess hat. A crass shout of oversweetness. Implausible, preposterous ... and (although I was reluctant to admit it) somehow glorious.