And What Month Is April?

Not the cruelest, despite T.S. Eliot’s “April is the cruelest…,” though there’s plenty of breeding out of the deadland. Nor is it necessarily dreaded tax time since for us at least, we’re almost always so afraid of not sending enough estimated payment ahead that when the final accounting comes, some branch of government owes us a refund. A crazy form of savings.

This year in Saint Paul, after an inordinately long season of snow, it’s a month of melt, with cresting rivers, cresting maybe twice. Yet, so far none of my usual bridges over, or river roads beside the Mississippi have been flooded out. No, for me April is a month of paper flurry, when classes that have been straining to reach their highest peak, let fly long papers which land around me like fallen petals. Some disappointing, so much so that I have to wonder: What was this young person doing when we discussed x, y, or z? But some, often from African immigrants, sparkle with wit and urgency. Real life brought to the page. Teresa, for instance, writing about solar energy, begins her research paper with the stunning remark that in the Bible, God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light. Since then this unstoppable source of energy, our sun, has been waiting for us to wake up and take advantage.

Teresa, who is from Kenya, concludes her six pages of solar discussion with a modern instance: a friend also from Kenya recently returned with a crew of other students from St. Thomas. In a Kenyan village, they set up eighteen solar panels which now provide heat and light for cooking and warming water. People there now take warm showers for the first times in their lives; plus they have a heat source for cooking that doesn’t require a long trek to forests being quickly depleted. Teresa’s enthusiasm opens like the first tulips with brilliant appreciation.

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour…”

So Chaucer set his Canterbury pilgrims on their way, with the reminder that at the root of us all, spring sends its juices rising, bathing “every vein”–my favorite phrase–“in such liquor” that must eventually come to bloom. Some efflorescence will plague us–there’s the wasp and mosquito to contend with. Some will delight: this week, after we had two trunks of a four-trunk silver maple cut back, I spied a Mourning Cloak butterfly! What? This early? My tulips are still pushing up their green. Where could this flutter-bye be dipping its long unrolling tongue?

Come to find out it landed on the edge and side of the cut maple trunk, sopping up the sweet sap. Two springs ago, enterprising young neighbors tapped this very tree for sap and eventually gave us a tiny bottle of maple syrup. Sweet liquor, indeed.

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