It was 27°c here two weeks ago. The flowers leapt toward the sun with abundant joy, the bees danced and hummed their tales amongst themselves and anyone else who would listen, and the birds designed and structured their nests, some already laying their eggs and sitting. Song was everywhere and the blossom on the cherries unfurled and stretched after a winter of confinement and sleep.
At the weekend, the temperature dropped and the sun hid. Snow, thick and heavy snow, fell for two days, and the song faltered, the scent of the flowers froze, and the birds struggled. Here, it settled a little, but not too far away they had more than 80 centimetres (pretty much a yard). At night, for two days, the temperature was -8°c. During the day it hovered around freezing.
Last year was similar, and one of the three cherry trees perished. The tale was the same across the region and much of France, with those who rely on growing things resorting to desperate measures to keep their livelihood and green charges from failing. Candles were lit below vines, blossom encased in covers, and prayers said.
Climate change pushes the first false spring earlier and warmer each year. I remember, when I was a child in Orkney, April being the month were there could reliably be a warmer weekend to play outside, grass growing swiftly, requiring the lawn to be mown and silage cut in May.
Now, in the north of Scotland, March has that first warmth. It is, arguably, similar here, although there can also be heat in the sun as early as February or late January. I hear similar from friends around the world — uncharacteristic and devastating rains in the dry season, or no rain in the rainy season. Winds. Storms. Tides and waves and water.
This year, here, there was a constant warming, over several weeks. The plants and animals were fooled, again, and, again, they suffered. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the remaining two cherries, and was surprised to see the male and female blackbirds both bringing food to their nest yesterday. Extra seed and fat balls, along with the ever-present and laboriously cut cheese-rinds, have hopefully helped.
As I edit this, the sun has returned and it feels too hot to wear a jacket outside.
I have edited out a long section here, all about the incorrect framing of climate collapse, all about the media, the future, and how families are already feeling the effects — only they are told the cause is something or someone else. I have decided to keep this part of the introduction for another time.
Instead, I will focus on the return of the bees and wonder at how they made it through the weekend. I glance out the window and see a butterfly, then another. The blossom is still there, still providing sustenance for bee and butterfly both.
There is a lesson to be learnt here.