Advent. This assumes a date. King Charles IIII has just experienced his accession, his coronation will take place in six weeks when he will already have 74 springs. A reign is limited with clear dates. Although they are likely to be postponed a few times. But when it comes to a transition season? Winter, said the writer Léon Bloy, ends dragging at the end of March, equivocal and rheumatic. And does spring always start on the 21st?
Let’s go to Strasbourg Cathedral. At the precise moment of the equinox, a ray of sunlight passed through Judas’ left foot on a stained glass window to illuminate the figure of Christ crucified on the great Gothic pulpit. A restoration has just been operated, it returned the left foot of Judas to its original opacity. The glass only became transparent following an accident in 1972. This is what the administrative court has just said, seized following a petition. Which disciple to trust? Certainly not to Judas? What date to set? Florence now. The large panel painted by Botticelli with Venus in the center, Flora on the right and this extraordinary meadow where we have identified nearly 200 different plants that occur in spring. At that time, in 1482, in the city of the Medici, spring and the year began on March 25, with the feast of the Annunciation – when the Virgin was visited by an angel who announced to her in her garden surrounded by flowers that she would be miraculously fertile.
Spring is the time for promises.
It comes to us vague desires, desires to run, to go at random, to seek adventures. François Walter has just published a sensitive story of spring. He quotes at length an author who speaks to us a lot today: the American David Thoreau. In the middle of the 19th century, Thoreau retired to a cabin in the woods where he was lucky enough to be able to watch for spring. The first outing of the groundhog venturing out of its burrow, the complaint of the squirrel whose reserves are running out.
But today, these promises are thwarted.
Madame de Sévigné was waiting for the song of the first sparrows which, she hoped, would drown out the wicked cries of the streets of Paris. But even in his district, the Marais, we hear mostly angry slogans. The Zéphyr wind was eagerly awaited, it blows away the waste left accumulated on the sidewalks by the garbage collectors’ strike. The pedestrian smells more fetid odors than hawthorn and lilac.
For a long time, people watched in the Tuileries for the flowering of a large chestnut tree in the center of the garden. The nostalgic maintained that it was planted on the burial of Swiss guards massacred during the capture of the castle in August 1792. The Bonapartists that it flourished on the date of the birth of the King of Rome. Well, in 2023, he is no more! And if we look at the chestnut, birch and cypress trees, it’s because we fear the pollens that cause allergies. The map of the National Allergy Surveillance Network establishes that the danger, at the moment, is between medium and high and the Mediterranean departments in red vigilance. What an era!
You are left with the memory of the springs of yesteryear.
The petal of a flower picked early and found later. The memory of loved ones passing through the flowers. A unique moment that will not return.
A party to which young people today are not invited. François Walter’s book lists all these literary motifs that date back to times long before the current climate crisis. Ovide already, in the first years of our era, gives the floor to Flore: “I am so neglected that I stop watching over the countryside, I will let the winds damage the olive groves, the hail destroy the fields.”
And now summer time has already arrived.
François Walter observing the lexical corpora that we can now compose, notes that the word spring appears less. The introduction of summer time unknowingly heralded a new partition of the year to which temperate countries were not accustomed; five months of winter and the summer which is coming earlier and earlier. Our representation of the passage of time is less marked by seasonality. Instead, a linearity imposes itself: we see the curve of dangers which rises, which rises until the triumph of the inexorable summer with its excessively ardent sun, its severe droughts. Bring us spring!
Francois Walter, Desire for spring, sensitive story of a seasonPayot