Monday, April 03, 2006

“April is the cruellest month,” says poet T. S. Eliot. But if the weather so far is any indication, April’s taking her Prozac like a good little month this year. It may be unfair to have blamed April for her wild mood swings in the first place. It could be her relationship with unregenerate March, undeniably a bad influence. If they could be separated April might turn out to be a model month. At any rate, it seems—though it’s probably too early to tell—that April has decided to behave this time around. Promises, promises. I know, we’ve heard it all before. Why do we believe her? Will we never learn? Maybe old Thomas Stearns was right about April after all.

But wasn’t the weekend glorious? OK, so climate change may be the cure for April’s antics, and the cure may be a far cry worse than the disease, but even if global warming is the reason for our newly unseasonable seasons, who could possibly turn down a weekend like the one we just had? Eliot says April is cruel for “mixing memory and desire,” but sometimes, when the weather’s just right, this bedeviling mix can be intoxicating. Sure, there’s something comforting about a New England winter, even if it can be cantankerous at times. But it gets to be like spending Spring Break with your grandparents after awhile, doesn’t it? It tends to drag on a bit.

So, of course, when April came skipping up the walk whistling a tune, pigtails bobbing, and rang the bell, I ran to greet her. Like old friends, we agreed to forgive and forget the past, and start fresh. And what a start! I spent the weekend in the garden, and April was right there with me. I have to say, there are few things that give me as much pure, giddy pleasure as gardening. I came to it during my dad’s illness, when I took over his garden for him. He died in April, so I have my own mixed memories and desires associated with this month, but the joy that the garden brought the both of us in his last days has stuck with me.

What is it about a garden? It’s those very simple but profound reminders about the cycles of life all around you. We know these things already, of course, but we need reminding. I think what a garden gives is a picture of a well-lived life in miniature. There’s the wonder of new life, the excitement of nursing it along to maturity, the satisfaction of its coming to fruition (literally), the pride and pleasure of sharing it with others, and the sweet melancholy of its passing. And there is April at the start of it all. Cruel? Sometimes, perhaps. But let’s not judge too harshly. For all April’s faults, as author Sarah Chauncey Woolsey put it: “Every tear is answered by a blossom,/Every sigh with songs and laughter blent,/April-blooms upon the breezes toss them./April knows her own, and is content.”

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