April seems to be rife with annoyances; the metaphorical gnats flying around our days. We’ve had yoyo weather, sinus issues, mud tracked into the house, soil too wet to work, barometric pressure-related arthritis, an incontinent dog and new kittens that weren’t supposed to come at all! And on one of our warm days, just before the last snow storm, I did actually see a cloud of gnats flying about. Early April is often an extension of March’s late winter weather tantrums, and Henry VanDyke* had something to say about that: “The first day of spring and the first spring day are not always the same thing.” Certainly true for this year!!
It has been a rather sporadic and short season for one of our local products, maple syrup.. For a good sap run, the nights should be chilly and the days above freezing. We haven’t had too many of those in a row, so I expect that syrup will be even more expensive this year. If those who are unfamiliar with the maple syrup process wonder at the price, perhaps this quotation from Hal Borland** will explain: “Everyone who owns sugar maples and has room to do it should make syrup at least once, not only for the satisfaction of such accomplishment, but to understand why maple syrup costs what it does in the market. I found that it takes at least a cord of wood to boil down the forty gallons of sap needed to make one gallon of syrup. A cord of wood and a week of fire-tending!” And this year, I’ve been told that the sap is such that it will take more than forty gallons to make a gallon of good syrup. So cherish that flavor if you acquire real maple syrup for your pancakes!!
Sometimes my irritatants are a matter of perspective. Dish-washing is definitely not my favorite task in life. Recently we had a leaky pipe under the kitchen sink. It was discovered the night before Kerm was scheduled for a one-day surgical procedure. Because he was then limited in movement for a few days, the leak also remained for a few days. A lot of dishes can collect when one can’t use the kitchen sink. Of course, I could have washed them elsewhere, but did I mention that I really don’t like doing them at all? When the pipe was finally repaired, I spent quite a lot of my day happily catching up. It is amazing how much brighter my spirits were with the availability of both the sink and dishwasher. Obviously my mood and my attitude toward dishwashing was a matter of perspective. I expect this is true of many things I see as annoying.
I am finding it difficult to have a good attitude about those aforementioned kittens. There are three more, due to the elusiveness of Mama. They are absolutely adorable with their spiky little tails and the way they gambol about the sidewalk and clumsily pounce on anything that moves. They are also friendly, curious and impossible to ignore. We’ve managed to capture most of our feral cats and they are now neutered, but two remain to be trapped, one of whom seems to be everybody’s mama. Wish us luck ---- OH ---- and if anyone needs kittens…
April is, of course, not all gnats. There are definitely delights in these early weeks. The Easter flowers are blooming inside, nicely scenting the house. We had a lovely time with family on Easter weekend. It is always good to sit around the table, telling stories and enjoying the laughter. Our Easter service, even though the stained glass windows of our sanctuary are off being re-leaded (leaving the room looking a bit strange) and the weather was cold and windy, was extra-inspiring and impressive this year. After a time of confession and thoughtfulness, children came dancing down the aisle, heralding the joy of Easter, and we concluded with the “Hallelujah Chorus”, which is a pretty good way to begin a week.
Outside, along my back sidewalk, the snow drops and crocuses are finally in bloom, and the green tips of the daylilies are showing again. Even though the ground is cold and wet, I know that seeds are beginning to swell beneath the surface, just waiting for the first warm days for them to emerge. Every time I drive by the swamps west of us, I look for the greeny-purple leaves of skunk cabbage, knowing that soon to follow will be the gold of marsh marigolds. Dormant life is just waiting to burst forth in real spring! Even in the midst of newness, though, we have also been reminded of how fleeting life can be. We’ve lost two good friends in the past weeks; one after fighting a valiant battle with cancer and one in a tragic house fire. Not only do I grieve the loss of my friends, but I regret not spending more time with them. All too often, I let daily busyness put off enjoying time with family and friends. We probably all allow too many appointments, committees, leaky pipes and even lethargy, to crowd out actual connecting with people and cherishing relationships, and perhaps we should think seriously about this. I believe that our level of kindness and caring for each other is probably more key to what is really important than our inner star chart of how many tasks and good deeds we accomplish.
Today, one day before this goes out to you, we’ve had a variety of weather; heavy rain showers, big winds and a few glimpses of sunshine. And now we are getting a snow shower as our big spruce trees blow wildly. This is typical of April in upstate New York.. According to Hal Borland, again, “Spring moves northward at approximately sixteen miles/day, or roughly, a hundred miles/week. This applies, however, only on level ground. When one begins to climb, the northward pace slackens, since spring moves uphill only about one hundred feet/day.” I think it will be a week or two before our forsythia blooms and those daylily tips might find themselves a bit frosted tomorrow morning. But the season is progressing! So Happy Spring, and may all your gnats be easily whisked away.
*- Henry Van Dyke----American diplomat, writer, educator and clergyman. 1852-1933
**-Hal Borland --- American journalist, writer, naturalist. 1900-1978
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.