March - who remembers now that the Roman God of War, Mars, lent his name to the third month of the Christian calendar.
For us, March is the month of new beginnings, new hope; when daylight finally returns to drive winter darkness out and the birds sing their first, tentative, songs of love.
The first sound of the thrush in early March awakens the long train of memories, all the way back to childhood, when the mists rose above the land, dewdrops glistened in the gorse bushes by the railway embankment and grass and clods of soil in the fields crunched under your feet after the night's frosts, soon to be dissolved by the rays of the steadily climbing sun. Silver birches shone victorious and larch and spruce painted the Heath in tender green hues. Willows by the brook stretched their long, bare arms into the newly blue sky and shed their gnomish winter image.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
After the long months of winter incarceration, March was the month when we children burst out into the light of backyard and garden, the village street and square; when the paraphernalia of outdoor games made their triumphant re-emergence from dusty corners and deep cupboards. Many of the over 80 games Bruegel painted in 1560 were still known in the villages of the flat landscapes of Northern Europe in the 40s and 50s of the last century, and I remember playing tag and marbles, hopscotch and skipping, ball games, bowling hoops and whip top. Girls held hands, sang and danced to nursery rhymes and boys climbed trees.
There was little spare cash for buying toys in the early years, later on our parents 'organised' scooters, roller skates and even bicycles for us, many of them cobbled together from spare parts. In those days, necessity was indeed the mother of invention.
Now March is the month when work in the garden starts in earnest, when spring lambs are born and the brown March hares fight in the fields.
Mad March hares - the most mysterious and
sacred of British animals - now
performing their mating rituals.