By Michael Leach
When it comes to coping with a variety of weather, Midwesterners take second place to no one on the planet. Sometimes it seems we get almost everything in a few hours.
Because April in my part of the Heartland is mercurial at best, it was with tepid hopes I put the recycled-plastic Adironack chairs on the patio the day before Easter. The forsythia blossoms hadn’t even fully opened. While forsythia blooms don’t guarantee three snows of folklore, more cold weather is certain.
And Easter, no matter its placement on the calendar, rarely matches the pastel scene depicted in ads and greeting cards. While growing up, we never marched in the Easter parade, but were always in uniform if called upon to do so. Despite arctic cold, Mother refused to allow my sister and I to wear winter coats. “They’ll hide your new Easter clothes,” she scolded. How dare we prefer drab, dark coats to a fashion statement. Our numb little fingers gathered the colored eggs hidden around the back yard.
Softball was usually as chilly a proposition as egg hunts. Even early May can bring frosts, freezes and January-like wind chills. Outfield duty meant possible frostbite.
So putting the chairs out practically guaranteed the always crazy April weather would make them mere garden decorations for awhile, not a spot for comforting rest from chores or savoring the beauty of spring flowers on balmy days.
The variety of meteorological offerings that followed, however, was awe inspiring. Monday after Easter, several inches of snow transformed the garden into a Christmas card scene. (Sure hope the white Christmas fans have had their fill of the four-letter “s” word, I growled.) Tuesday brought a quick warm up, rounds of flooding rains, hail, violent winds, and a small tornado touching down at evening rush hour just three miles from home. Fortunately there were no injuries, though this twister damaged buildings and toppled power lines. On Wednesday morning snow flurries were blowing again. At least the snow didn’t stick to pavements. The only atmospheric condition that failed to materialize was pleasant, as in shirtsleeve weather.
There’s something especially depressing about the mixed metaphor of snow-crusted patio furniture. The surreal extends to the daffodils and other flowers, who do imitations of the yoga pose Downward Dog. (Perhaps I need counseling.
Little wonder that St. Louis native and Nobel Prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot penned, “April is the cruelest month …” Such a thought probably arose after enduring a Midwest winter that never wanted to end and an April that was anything but springlike. He eventually moved to temperate England. (But even the Mother Country had cruel snow storms and deadly chills this winter.
Another poet of our region came through the winters and uncertainties of April seeing a brighter side. Jesse Stuart, Kentucky poet laureate, lived in a lovely hollow near the small town of Greenup on the Ohio River.
His poem “Hold April” speaks of the winsome side of this split-personality month.
He tells us to hold on to April because it’s another year
“ … before she comes again
To bring us wind as clean as polished glass
And apple blossoms in soft, silver rain. …
When wild birds sing up flights of windy stair
And bees love alder blossoms by the stream. …
Month of eternal beauty and delight.”
Spring’s delight will return — as always. Hold that hope.