April has me at her beck and call. The fourth month of our calendar year, most capricious of the twelve, plays with my physical being as well as my emotions.
The dismal, gray landscape that greets me each morning does little to encourage the spirit or to inspire creativity. Huge piles of dirty snow remain on the edge of my lawn, along my driveway and worst of all, on top of my vegetable garden. I live in a valley, carved out long ago by a small stream. Here, tall pines cast long shadows and sunrise, at least the physical appearance of earth’s star, arrives much later than the almanac would suggest.
Daytime temperatures only in the mid-40s make it necessary to wear a jacket for outdoor work, especially under cloudy skies. Such conditions also dictate that we continue to pay homage to the woodstove. Without a fire, the house becomes cold and clammy. But wood doesn’t burn well now because the same temperatures that call for a fire also keep the chimney from drawing. Smoke fills the room each time the stove door opens and when the wood finally catches, it burns for only a brief time before regressing to a low-grade smudge.
Melting snow and ice create sinkholes in the dooryard and in the driveway. Long-forgotten logs and rocks, pushed up by the retreating frost, become stumbling blocks for the unwary. Water from snowmelt forms wide pools, mandating the use of “walking boards.” These are stored in the barn and only used in April. When the land finally dries, they go back to storage, out of sight and out of mind for another year.
Spring bulbs emerge, but refuse to bloom. These need sunlight and for days, even weeks, the sun seems so very distant and foreign. Accordingly, crocuses, tulips and daffodils send up their leafy tips but keep their colorful blossoms under wraps.
The storm systems that sweep through Maine every week or so signal their arrival by causing arthritic joints to ache. Fingers become stiff and unresponsive. Oddly, the onset of low-pressure systems causes the most physical discomfort. When the system finally arrives, symptoms gradually fade.
But April has an alternate persona, maddeningly shy and reclusive. This other personality holds a promise, one that makes the fourth month’s dark side so difficult to endure. If it wishes, April’s sun can send healing warmth to our very bones and joy to our hearts.
April’s grandeur has no peers. Hayfields become carpets of soothing green and poplars on distant ridges, all decked out in swaths of gauzy, pastel green, contrast perfectly with scarlet red maple flowers. Fire on faraway blueberry fields sends out tantalizing streamers of fragrant smoke.
April, if it only chooses, has the power to lull, to soothe and transform.