The season of April
My Why audio version of this blog available here.
In the previous blog in the series 'To every thing there is a season', on the month of March, I mentioned the saying ‘If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb’. Well, as March came in with a storm, it was pretty liony, and if lambs represent a bit of sun and a bit of cloud and a bit of rain, then I can report the saying is true. Last week was apparently beautiful sunshine in the UK but hubby and I were abroad so we missed it (let's hope that wasn't the British summer!).
Also, I’ve yet to hear the dawn chorus, or be awake at that time to notice it, but I haven’t forgotten my mission to record it for you.
So, back to the month of April, and this month has a lot going for it in the UK. I feel like if it symbolised one word it would be ‘hope’. Plus it includes Chris’ birthday, so it always feels like a good month in this house.
Last weekend our clocks all went forward an hour, as the saying goes; ‘Fall back, spring forward’ and we entered British Summer Time. So although that happens in late March, I feel like April takes the credit for everyone feeling better as the evenings start to get lighter and longer.
On the 1st April we kick things off with April Fool’s Day. For those not familiar with this ‘fun’ tradition, it’s a day to play pranks on other people and when they fall for it you yell ‘April Fools!’ at them and point and laugh. Yes, it’s a lovely tradition. This spread even further with the arrival of television, radio and the internet, and for a long while you had to be very cautious about anything you read or saw on that day. Nowadays you just have to be careful about everything you see on any day. ;)
For example, in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series supposedly showing Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss spaghetti harvest. The BBC was then flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day. There are also a substantial amount of real news headlines that were discounted as hoax’s because the news broke on 1st April. Unfortunate is the comedian who dies on this day. And although I toyed with the idea of putting out a podcast episode saying I was quitting the whole idea of The Silent Why and had concluded there was no joy and hope to be found in any grief, as an April Fools’, I decided against it. So rest easy, there are no April Fool’s jokes here (unlike the time Chris thought it was funny to tell me his dog had died, or the time he got a colleague to call me up and say we’d got a full refund on a large bill on our house renovation, where I profusely thanked him, only for him to ring back and say ‘Chris says; April Fools’!’) And yes, for some reason I still married that man.
April is also the start and end of the tax year. And that’s about as interesting as that gets.
Weather-wise, there’s a chance April can be very hot (by English standards - so mid to late 20’s), and during lockdown in 2020 it was a scorcher. White pasty middle-aged men for miles could be seen walking around with no shirt on, and since none of us could go to work we were plagued with them outside our windows, briefly taking our minds off the deadly virus ravaging the world, and more towards thoughts of diets and body toning exercises.
However, it’s also the month we most expect rain, in short weird bursts that catch us unawares, because this is when technically we’re supposed to have ‘April Showers’.
According to the all-knowing internet April showers are rains that arrive in the Northern Hemisphere in early spring, meaning heavy rain downpours can be common and caused by the position of the jet stream, which moves north and causes large depressions to bring rain from the Atlantic Ocean. Whatever that means. But because the sun is quite warm by now, it means you can get this weird weather that swings from sun to heavy rain and back again. However, I think April Showers are slowly sneaking into June, as sometimes April seems devoid of them completely. I’ll keep you posted on my findings next month.
The other delight we have in April this year is Easter. The shops are already full of chocolate - torturing everyone that gave up sugar for lent - and there’s one particular kind of Easter food that I most look forward to - Simnel Cake. This delight is something I made for myself for the first time a few years ago and I can’t get enough of it. For those who have never heard of this beauty, it’s basically fruitcake with a centre layer of, one of my favourite things, you guessed it, marzipan! For my 40th birthday, even though it’s in July, my husband actually commissioned his mother to make one for my birthday cake. So I’m very much looking forward to making one of those in a couple of weeks. Things like cake can make even the horrors of childlessness subside for ten minutes.
As they say; 'You can’t buy but happiness, but you can buy cake, and that's kind of the same thing.'
Then there’s also the long Easter Bank Holiday weekend to indulge in cake and chocolate. Where everyone (almost, except those that have to work) gets Good Friday and a Easter Monday off work.-Non-Christians - you’re welcome. And if you’re a Christian then you get the remembrance of Good Friday and the celebrations of Easter Sunday to be a part of, which has a lot of meaning and significance for people going through loss and grief, which I might delve into and explain more about nearer the time.
And then there’s nature. As I look out into my garden now at the beginning of April there is a tsunami of hope coming at me.
March winds and April showers Bring forth May flowers. Charles Welsh, A Book of Nursery Rhymes
Like the rainbow analogy - after the rain, after the storms, after the winter, there comes the rainbow, the flowers, the springtime.
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming. Pablo Neruda
This is the first year I’ve got a garden that’s slightly more established coming into bloom. After we removed all the decking and artificial turf in 2020 and planted up our garden to encourage wildlife, we’ve been enjoying things growing, and last year most things were still fairly new or we were planting things, but this year, I’ve got plants that are a year or two old and I’m getting to see the fruits of my labour.
The magnolia tree that was dying in the garden centre is in flower, the Edgeworthia I wrote about previously on ‘The Season of March’ is still in flower, the wildflower turf we put down is starting to shoot upwards, the acers have buds of new leaves, the climber I chopped back and thought I’d killed is covered in new leaves, the lavender are starting to bloom, and there’s daffodils popping up all over the place with huge splashes of yellow.
Plus a couple of gorgeous tulips have come back again after I bought a basket of them planted to put in the ground to raise money for the local church last year.
I’m excited to see what will grow where. Plus I’m planning a Hedgehog Highway gap in the fence, even though Chris has been resistant to it, so this is my way of just letting him know that’s probably coming soon.
I feel like this is the time of hope after the winter, and a reminder that seasons always change, no matter how long the winter feels, spring will come again.
Hence when C.S. Lewis thought up one of the worst things the White Witch could do in Narnia, he opted for this, as Mr Tumnus tells us:
“It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!” The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
We all need a spring on the horizon, literally and metaphorically. There may be some of you that can’t imagine a spring ever arriving, can’t see an end to your pain, frustration, tears or hurt, but sometimes just the belief that it’s there, is enough to sustain us. The same is applicable to hope. We don’t always feel hope, can’t see it, can’t hold it, don’t understand it, but the belief in hope, the assurance of better things, is in itself enough to keep us afloat. It’s when we let go of that, and allow the possibility of an endless winter, that we start to sink.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King Jr
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
And hope doesn’t just happen, it takes hard work and a decision to believe in it. Our garden isn’t just growing, it’s growing because we’ve tended it, found the right place for the right plants, made an effort with it. All the best things involve the worst things. We’re only doing a podcast on loss because love exists, it doesn’t hurt to lose something you care nothing about. In fact even hope makes life harder - if you hope in something and it lets you down, you get hurt. If you hope in nothing you save yourself pain, but you invite other things in like loneliness, disconnection, anger and pain.
The deep roots never doubt spring will come. Marty Rubin
To choose to love, to choose to hope, to choose to have faith - is to take a risk on getting hurt or let down. They’re all things we can’t see, can’t hold and can’t literally cling to, but they’re also the very things that keep people going in the darkest, worst times.
A month into the war in Ukraine, in the city of Mykolaiv, a bomb hit a psychiatric hospital just 500 metres away from the maternity unit, a day later a little baby girl was born metres from where the bomb went off. The news quoted her mother as saying: "No matter what happens now, I'm the happiest person, I just feel happiness because my daughter is healthy."
Dr. Valentin Podaranchuk, head of the maternity ward where Katya was born, described bringing in new life is like "bliss." He said, "A new life is born, despite all the horrors happening around. That's why we still have hope. Today a new little girl came into our world." Images showed staff beaming as they welcomed in the 49th baby to be born since the war started.
In my experience hope always finds a way forward, as they say; Hope floats. Whether you hope is in God, in love, in being thankful or something else, nature seems to always show us the way. In the middle of my garden, where winter frost has destroyed, new buds are appearing, where there is war and pain and conflict, new lives are being born, where there have been pain and nights of tears, the sun comes up to shed light and warmth.
I looked up the name Katya to find its meaning, it comes from Russian origins and it means ‘pure’, what a beautiful image, that purity can be born into the middle of a war zone and bring hope.
I think April moves my focus outside, instead of inside and that's really healthy. When we look to nature or get involved with it, it doesn't matter if we have children, if we are married, if we're at peace, if we're anxious, if we're tired, if we're rested, we just come as we are. There's a reason in lockdown SO many people turned to their gardens and we have a program in the UK called Gardeners World, every Friday night it gives gardening tips from a famous gardener over here called Monty Don. During lockdown the program featured home videos of all the unique ways people were gardening in flats, on balconies, in gardens. The benefits for mental health were huge. It's not easy to get outdoors and enjoy the weather all year round in the UK, but starting from now, it does get a lot easier and inviting. I always learn from my garden or my houseplants. Tending something is rewarding.
Spring is the ultimate time of hope, I hope that it brings you the same, wherever you are and whatever season you’re in. Spring outside your door doesn’t mean the winter in your heart will end, but there is a healing power to seeing nature grow and bloom, and I think it is more than just superficial, it touches the soul and spirit.
April teaches me to hope, it reminds me the seasons change (and there’s new life after winter), it shows me things will always move on, it shows me that nature always finds a way, whether in war, whether in peace, new life will always appear in springtime.
Home Thoughts, from Abroad O, to be in England Now that April 's there, And whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware, That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England—now! Robert Browning