Sometimes joy and sadness are hard to tease apart – there should be a word for the heavy lightness, or light heaviness, of springtime. This time of year always carries ambivalence: a scrum of flowers unfurl, scenting the air, but the winds are bitter-cold with that “not so fast” April scold, night temperatures not far off zero.
We are not finished with winter yet, not really, even though my garden is doing a pretty decent Koekenhof impression at the moment. Aside from the too-many tulips I keep layering in each autumn, accidentally unearthing old bulbs to make room for the new, the first (evil) Spanish bluebells are out, rushing ahead of their lazier but more true-hearted English cousins. Wild garlic blooms in the shady little woodland along our back garden wall, jostling with wild celery and the first cow parsley bunches. In my morning walk along the hedgerows, I see purple archangel, dead-nettle, green alkanet, dove’s-foot crane’s bill, all the pretty little weeds that don’t clamor to be noticed. I’ve been plagued with headaches and migraine auras recently, and it feels as if the icy air could anaesthetize my brain if only I could inhale enough of it.
I’m aware of significant stress at work, even though things are going as well as they ever have in terms of papers, grants, invited lectures and exciting collaborations, and my team is engaged and brilliant. Sometimes when I wake at 3 AM (why is it always exactly 3 AM? There’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere), my academic worries chase each other around in the dark, stripping the willow with my imposter syndrome. By light of day, I conquer them, and just get on with things. Science is such a strange profession, the sort of strangeness to which you become immune after long exposure. It tries so hard to spit you out once it swallows you, but if you are stubborn, you can cling on in there and try to achieve all the good things you’ve devoted your life to attempting. You do sometimes wonder what it would be like to work with a tailwind for a change – how much more would you accomplish? Or, perhaps the headwind is what sculpts the community into the sort of hive being that gets the best overall result, regardless of the fate of individual bees.