March is a strange month up here in the Pennines. It’s officially Spring, but it doesn’t feel like it, except on a few glorious days of crystal-clear sunshine.
We are at least a month behind the favoured south, where already the blackthorn is drifting in clouds of white and the daffodils pin the roadsides with yellow.
Meanwhile, up here, the blackthorns in our woods are still bare, their flower buds still tightly curled against the wind. And daffodils . . . ? Last year’s daffodils haven’t woken up yet!
Even lambs are late to arrive. Of course, when lambing starts is up to the farmer, in that it is dependent on when he introduces the ram to his sheep, but round here a lamb born early would have a hard time of it. Our local farm starts lambing on 20 April. The sheep don’t give birth in the Spring because it’s Spring, but it’s the best time because they will have the summer to grow up healthy.
In a normal year, the woods don’t change much during March. The resident birds are singing more frantically, for territory and mates, and a few very battered-looking primroses have dared to expose their pale faces to the weather.
But the blackthorn is still black and the hawthorn leaf buds are just starting to swell. The hazels, however, seem to have gone berserk with their catkins. There have been some catkins hanging on the hedge since January, but this month all the trees are suddenly festooned with soft bristles. It’s a good sign for hazelnuts, and therefore the birds, for the autumn.
Apart from this not much has happened, and on our walks I have been forced to ruminate on the puzzle that all animals with limbs have the same physiological structure to their arms and legs. They are all constructed of one bone on top of two bones on top of lots of little bones, then the digits, the fingers or toes. Thigh then shins then ankle then toes; upper arm, lower arm, wrist, fingers.
This holds true for all animals with arms or limbs. It is even true of the bird and the bat. The only variation is in the length of the bones.
I find this amazing, though it is hard to say why. There are so many ways to structure an effective leg, but everything uses the same structure. We all build our bodies in the same way. What is wonderful about this is that it makes me look for the similarities, rather than the differences, between species.
We are all related, and have the same distant, distant ancestors.
We should treat all life on this planet as family.