In praise of... the first snowdrops

Magnificent sunrises to the east, blue skies up above and the remnants of night-time frost underfoot... five hours' daylight giving way to a clear, star-filled sky... here in Oxford it's not quite cold enough to use words like raw and bitter, but it is most definitely wintry and icy. And yet we have the assurance that spring will come: look closely in parks and gardens and you will see little white points studding dark earth; snowdrops, those first, early heralds of spring are just beginning to emerge!

There is a legend about snowdrops which I recounted two years ago (here). It is a simple tale of hope from a tiny, seemingly fragile source. Yes, snowdrops seem fragile, with their tininess and pale, delicate slenderness, but in reality they are anything but. You have to be tough to push your way through hard, frost-impacted soil, to not only peep but keep emerging, rising, eventually unfurling, unflinching, through snow and icy cold. You have to be hardy to survive a British winter, be it wet and mild, dry and freezing or blanketed in snow. Tulips and daffodils may look more robust, but they have it easy compared with those delicate little flowers, snowdrops and crocuses.

Tagore wrote that Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. Well, three months before spring begins, when winter's icy grip is at its strongest, faith is also the snowdrop which feels the spring and blooms when winter is still harsh.


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