Italy’s toe is cold. Or, anyway, it was when I was there a couple of weeks ago. Surely the closest part of the mainland to North Africa ought to be more cozy than this. Even Naples, pictured always in the tourist literature with its blue bay and orange trees, was rain-drenched.
But the next stop, eastern England, outdid itself with maximum temperatures of just above freezing point and a wind that cut like knives. That wind, blowing without any mountain barriers all the way from Russia (and now that the Berlin wall is down, less protection than ever) has always been a reason to huddle around the British fireplace.
But what surprises is that so late in the year the rolling countryside, where Constable painted his calm scenes, is still streaked with snow, every flower that dare show its head shivering uncontrollably. No birds sing — with that wind and the euro crisis, what is there to sing about? As that other romantic, Keats, put it, even “the owl for all his feathers was a-cold.”
In an hour of hiking each day I don’t remember seeing another walker. The folks for all their Burberrys were a-cold too.
I list these dour images to remind readers how remarkably lucky (or remarkably clever) we are to live here. The day I came home, I sat out here in shorts (admittedly, not a very pretty sight) surrounded by blue and pink blossoms under a cloudless, windless sky.
The next day on a trail above La Crescenta I came across a baby rattlesnake basking in the sun and a couple of days later, a family of five well-fed coyotes walking down into the Arroyo. Let’s not get smug, at least let’s not show it, but if a phrase can sum it up, then here spring has certainly sprung, while in much of Europe, and large chunks of North America too, they can only sigh with
’s unrequited lover: “Spring is here, I hear.”