A reflection: the rites of spring

Kendry Hinton

YESTERDAY, travelling along muddy Wrights Lane with the wind thrashing against the ute, I stopped to witness a not unfamiliar event at this time of year.

A newborn calf, still wet from its birth, struggling to find its ungainly legs.

The mother stood over her like a citadel watching in a state of proud bemusement.

Not wanting to disturb this intimate scene, I moved on rapidly but was uplifted by this momentary glimpse of new life.

Driving along the Newry-Upper Maffra Rd, past the market gardens planted out like Japanese bento boxes, powder puffs of yellow wattle give an early hint that spring is coming.

It takes me back to my year in Provence living in a mediaeval hilltop farming village, Bonnieux, at the foot of the Petit Luberon mountains.

Winter struck hard.

The days grew shorter as the long nights of winter set in.

I hibernated inside our gite (little farmhouse) sitting at the kitchen table with stove burning, pot simmering, writing my diary.

As snow fell in drifts outside, the landscape around became reduced to a black and white etching.

But spring came with all the delicacy, perfume and lightness of touch of a seductive courtesan.

At the end of March, suddenly buds started to appear on the vines and an impressionist brushstroke swept across the orchards.

Confetti balls of cherry blossom and almond blossom covered the branches of previously stripped bare trees.

The fields popped with red as poppies appeared dotted across the landscape like a pointillist painting.

The air was thick with the perfume of honey, lavender and wild thyme crushed underfoot.

Furry bumble bees hummed notes in unison as they flew low across the marguerite daisies, declaring that winter was over.

The transformation of the landscape reflected a feeling of renewal.

Slowly, with bleary eyes, we came out of our enforced hibernation.

Like the cherry trees and vineyards, Bonnieux came to life with new energy.

Markets bustled, brimming with stalls of fresh asparagus, baskets of cherries, strawberries and olives.

Basket-laden, we celebrated the new offerings of the season.

Hours extended into long evenings.

Aperitifs at dusk became a welcome invitation – and long evening walks through the oak forests were lit by the crescent moon above the cypress trees.

The light is changing in east Gippsland too.

The morning skies reveal the warmth of a hidden sun and the afternoon stretches the clouds across the horizon.

Glimpses of birds on the wing with tendrils of nesting branches, foretell the coming of a new season.

There is a lightness in the still crisp air.

Definition has returned to the mountain wilderness of the Great Dividing Range.

We can see with telescopic clarity across the lake to the bridge leading out of the distant township of Glenmaggie.

I wander along our drive, stepping carefully over a hopscotch of cow pats left that morning by the cows agisted on our land.

A calf, some weeks old, leans into her mother, tugging at the swollen teats.

Another calf, Bella, suitably named with her beautiful auburn coat and mesmerising long eyelashes, stands next to them, sturdy on her muscular haunches, pulling at the long grass.

I remember when Bella first arrived, just like the young calf, a mere week old, drunken on her legs and cleaving to her mum.

The afternoon is lighter now as I look out across the garden.

Espaliered along the front of the house, a vine of wisteria with little buds forming on the interlaced tendrils.

A hint of colour, a suggestion of the lanterns of purple and white flowers that will soon be cascading from the branches.

A flash of yellow as a pair of honeyeaters fly past my window, flirting in flight.

They are preoccupied with the rites of spring. Spring has always been a welcome season.

The light soft air is redolent with the fragrance of fresh promise.

At a time where the world seems plunged into darkness, spring seems to offer its own window of hope.