It was the roses that first caught my eye. Standing at the window of my ground-floor apartment on Tuesday morning, in something of a reverie and with my mind flitting between the best of times past and the possible worst of times to come, suddenly I noticed them on my terrace - the shiny, green and red leaves on two of my roses. New growth. A sense of renewal. The world still turning.
Out I went on to the terrace. Yes, the gorgeous and unusual purple-flowering rose that I bought last summer was ablaze with life while the standard rose - a potted, sunshine-yellow beauty that has travelled with me and graced the patio or terrace of three homes over the past 20 years - also showed evidence of green shoots reaching for the sky.
There was definitely a couple of weeks' growth there but with anxiety levels high over coronavirus and with my mind more focused on this true-life horror show, these hopeful signals of life had simply passed me by this year.
So I lingered on the terrace for a while in the early sunshine of the blue-skied morning. And as I moved from pot to pot, I saw the lavender too was starting to burst from its winter-green sheaths to reveal some heartening flashes of palest purple.
"Nothing is so beautiful as spring," wrote the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. But it's actually about more than superficial beauty.
For spring has a power all of its own, an ability to lift the spirits, to speak of awakening and to reinforce the reality of things, a reality that all too often we either ignore or forget. Namely, that nature is in control.
That it is nature, God, the universe - call it whatever you believe - that is calling the shots.
And boy, is it due our respect because what are we, after all, but mere specks in the vast planetary picture? And transient specks at that.
So loved ones die, terrorists massacre innocent people, governments collapse, the homeless pull their cardboard duvets around themselves on the streets of our cities and coronavirus arrives, intent on wreaking havoc on the world.
And yet next spring, no matter what horrors we have lived through, those roses on my terrace will once again be sending out their shoots of renewal, there will be birdsong in the air, and the daffodils will have pushed their heads up through the earth and will be fluttering and dancing in the breeze. And offering hope for the future.
In this shrinking world of ours, in these difficult days, we can still enjoy that world.
I walked alone on the beach at just after 7am yesterday. A light breeze stirred up the ocean and the white-topped waves rolled gently on to the sands.
I stopped and looked out to sea, peering towards the horizon and trying to take in the vastness of its infinite power.
"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside." That's what Anne Frank wrote in her diary when she was holed up in the annexe of her house in Amsterdam.
Even in these shut-down times we can still follow that advice with brief forays where we can embrace the natural world or bring it indoors in all its glory.
For me, that's an early morning walk on the beach, my apartment filled with bunches and bunches of daffodils, and a daily potter on the terrace to check on the roses, lavender and other plants.
It's about grasping at joy and living in the moment. And when, as it will, this too has passed, just imagine how enriched we'll be from that experience.