The Best of Times

March 30, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Lime LinesLime LinesEarly spring color in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Shenandoah National Park creates interesting patterns in lime green. Dappled late-day light enhances the effect.


Near Rockfish Gap, Virginia

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land (1922)
 

A wintry mix is falling outside my window. So much for March going out like a lamb. (We desperately need precipitation so whether it's rain, snow or sleet it's fine by me.)

April waits in the wings: poor maligned April, linked for 100 years with a most unflattering adjective thanks to T.S. Eliot. 

What did Eliot have against April? 

I wonder if he spent one in Eastern Idaho where it's the windiest month of the year. That's saying something, because it's always windy in Eastern Idaho. A few posts ago I poked fun at Wyoming's notorious wind - a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Here, April and wind advisories are kind of like Batman and Robin: an established pairing. When high winds are forecast you'd better secure the outdoor furniture; it'll blow away to Montana if you don't. Visibility plummets as the air is choked with dust. Trees bend to the breaking point. You know Mother Nature is really intent about making a statement when they close the Interstate. 

Or could Eliot have been recalling springtime treks through New Hampshire's White Mountains? Mud season is in full swing at the beginning of April. Many unpaved roads are impassable. (It's so bad this year they've re-mapped some school bus routes and are telling people to avoid dirt roads altogether.) Hiking is difficult - if not dangerous. Eliot's family was originally from New England; he attended Milton Academy and later Harvard University. I've got to think he knew a thing or two about mud season. 

Daydream BelieverDaydream Believer'Spring Snow' crabapple blooms
(Idaho Falls, Idaho)
As for the annual rite of misery known as the tax filing deadline, back in the 1920s income taxes were due in March. Eliot might have loathed Tax Day as much as everyone else but he couldn't pin that one on April. 

So what's with the badmouthing?

I'll admit the month has some quirks but the charge of cruelty does seem harsh. :)  

The poem is, of course, an allegory. The post-WWI world Eliot writes about was messed up. So is the world today. Don't blame April. 

Hope really does spring eternal if you give it half a chance, and April is filled with it.

In the northern hemisphere, the earth awakens from its winter slumber. It gets warmer. The days lengthen. Daffodils and tulips begin to bloom; perennials send up shoots; trees bud. The birds return; their cheerful singing sweetens dusky early mornings. 

Sometimes winter is reluctant to release its grip, but random snowstorms and cold snaps don't last. 

Highlight of the month? Easter. My favorite holiday. Its timing shifts but statistically speaking Easter is much more likely to occur during April rather than in March. 

How can any of that not put a spring in your step?

Welcome to April. The best of times.

Trees in Bloom, Beds Ready for PlantingAnticipationThe beds in Prescott Park's formal garden await planting as the crab trees in full bloom take center stage. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) About the Photos

Top: The different shades of green in newly unfurled leaves is stunning; I think of it as a second foliage season. It's especially pronounced in the mountains of the east where there are vast expanses of trees and a variety of species. I made this photograph in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. On a chilly late afternoon, the persistent rain paused and the sun made a brief appearance. The beautiful dappled light created a geometric scene on the hillside. 

Middle: I'm partial to flowering ornamental trees. Cherry, crabapple, pear - you name it. It's much more challenging to photograph the blooms in a windy climate; the trees are nearly always in motion and the flowers don't last long. This is a flowering crab on a rare calm morning near Idaho Falls.

Below: The formal garden in Portsmouth, New Hampshire's Prescott Park is what I consider to be one of the loveliest spots in town. It features three circular pools, each of which contains a fountain, brick walkways, eight spectacular Japanese crab trees and thousands of flowers in-season. Here the massive crabs are in full bloom; the beds are cultivated and ready to be planted with annuals. 
 

In Local News

Teton Park Road (the inner loop) in Grand Teton National Park is now open to bicyclers, pedestrians and rollerbladers. It will re-open to vehicles on May 1st. As of yesterday both Antelope Flats Road and Mormon Row Road were still closed. Schwabacher Landing opens tomorrow (4/1).

In Yellowstone, cyclers and other non-motorized traffic can use the following roads:

  • West Entrance to Madison Junction
  • Madison Junction to Norris Junction
  • Norris Junction to Mammoth
  • East Entrance to the east end of Sylvan Pass (conditions allowing)

The west entrance will open to vehicles on April 15th. The rest of the park roads will open one-by-one throughout the month of May. 
 


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