Spring – searching for shadows

Baby green, the darling buds, snowdrops and daffodils, the tweeting (of real birds mind you), that smell in the air unlike any other and that something in the air. The clichés are never more numerous nor more beautiful than in spring.

Spring fever hits a large portion of the population, caused by a very healthy virus and with giddiness being one of the symptoms. There are other easily recognisable symptoms as well, most of them occur in combination with the giddiness: 

  • Illogical reactions, like when the reappearance of various crawling and flying insects makes you marvel, or the sight of a magnolia about to burst makes your eyes water.
  • A sudden need for change. As in a more or less complete makeover – of yourself, your home, or both. Or even others – husbands for example.
  • A sudden need for shopping – normal given the previous symptom –  often for light or bright colours. This spring, the need for white or bright should be easy to satisfy.
  • A need for air and/or showing off. Shiny convertibles proudly parading the streets – hair, scarves and laughter blowing in the gentle spring wind.
  • A need for things to grow. The obvious place for growth being the garden. The desperate expat wife is not a gardener, not even a hint of green fingers, but all the same every spring she optimistically buys flowers at the local market and plants them, eagerly sniffing the fresh earth. They never live long, but still this spring ritual is important.

    Spring shadows. Photo: Unni Holtedahl

    Spring shadows. Photo: Unni Holtedahl

It’s safe to say that we need pretty things and we need renewal in many ways. Spring is the ultimate messenger on both accounts. It’s a bit like opening a sluice.

So we’re all high on the spring clichés. Avoiding the dreaded clichés is especially hard when you write about spring, but maybe they’re also more acceptable  because we love them so. Can seeing spring through the camera lens help avoid clichés?

Searching for shadows. They’re never clearer and more visible, never longer than in early spring. A crooked branch on a bright red wall. The details of an ornamented railing on the pavement. An old lamp post crossing the street. A girl dancing on the worn bricks of a cathedral.

Catching colours and movements. Spring moves, and it moves in colours. Children on bright bikes. Shoppers on the go. Happy crowds at outdoor markets and restaurants. Colourful scarves in convertibles. You even feel your lens can capture the joyous noise of spring.

Catching spring in black&white. How, when a long b&w winter is finally behind you and all you want are colours? But as it often happens, you see differently, more carefully and sometimes more clearly through a lens, and it turns out that spring can be very expressive without colours.

Spring in black&white. Photo: Ann-Kristin Øvreeide

Spring in black&white. Photo: Ann-Kristin Øvreeide

Also in the search for the non-cliché spring, there’s poetry. If poetry is a bit of a dormant art, then spring can certainly awaken it. The annual festival “Le printemps des poètes” – the spring of poets – which took place in Luxembourg earlier this month is proof of that.

Right now is the best time. While the shadows are clear, while we’re still waiting. Some poetry why we wait, by portuguese poet David Teles Pereira who was one of the Printemps des poètes poets this year.


My great grandfather only wanted to go via Portugal

and then cross over the Atlantic.

But he had to settle for calling his first daughter America.

My grandfather had once wanted to be an actor, after having spent

five days and four nights translating a play by Brecht

in a room of the Rosa hotel with a view over the river Sado.

 ( from the poem “Welcome to year zero” )

 By Unni Holtedahl, April 2013

Poems translated by Ana Hudson


  1. Ha, ha – recognize the thing about not being a gardener 🙂 but I have finally learnt my lesson and just don’t plant anything anymore. And I’m with you on the taking photos part. It’s my favorite way of catching the spring! 🙂


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