There was a day, just before the snow, when I distinctly smelt that most spine-tingling smell of all, the smell of growth. It must provoke a hormone rush, endorphines or some chemical that sends well-being shooting through your system. There is no describing the essence of earth and plants in action. Does it emanate from some particular plants? Or from the soil? Is it a combination of many traces of scent? I know my reaction is like a gear change to lower revs, and a change of spectacles at the same time. I focus on different things.
At the snowdrop moment the ground come up to meet you anyway. Suddenly you are concentrating on plants three inches high whose flowers bashfully look the other way. I go down on my haunches (creak) and use my fingers to rake dead leaves aside, my forefinger and thumb to pull pine needles out of the pale clump, all my attention fixed on the microcosm at my feet.
Two days later there was no microcosm to be seen. The brilliant generalization of snow had obliterated detail. It held its perfection for 24 hours, reducing the garden to lumps and hollows, turning the apple trees to crystal chandeliers, then started to dissolve and pockmark, smudge and spoil. There is no pleasure in old snow, in shovelled piles that refuse to melt. In three days I was resenting it hiding the green and brown world where growth was carrying on unseen.