This month has been the coldest April since 1997. That was the first spring of our move from Colorado to Montana, after the snowiest winter here on record, and I wondered how I’d ever survive this state’s weather. I’ve come to love that we are on the edge of the Pacific Northwest zone, so we usually get their storms, even if moisture is often squeezed out by the mountain ranges in between. There is never enough moisture these days in the west, but, on this side of the continental divide, we are luckier.
BUT…man, by the end of April, we are all ready for some warmth anyway. Despite the cold, the sun is now high in the sky and sunsets are getting so late. The bedroom glows when I go to bed. There are lots of windows and the french doors in our bedroom, as well as a full-length mirror on the back of the door leading out of the room. When I lay my head down to sleep, I can look into that mirror from my pillow and see the lingering pink and gold light of sunset over the mountains west of the lake. I do think it’s a pleasant sleep aid. I hung our sheets on the clothesline for the first time of the season last Sunday–it’s been too rainy and cold since then. It takes me longer these days, but I did it, and feeling the air off the lake while listening to the call of the Towhee birds while I placed the wooden pins, made it worth the effort. The reward is, of course, a bed made with sheets fresh off the line. Joy has been doing this very fun Storyworth project with me, in which every Monday I get a new question to answer about my life. At the end of the year, I guess she will have compiled a memoir of sorts from me. Last week’s question was to talk about my favorite smells, and the first one that came up was the smell of laundry which my mother had hung on the clothesline, and how my siblings and I would hide under the tents made by the fluttering sheets.
Tomorrow, it’s another one of those wonderful old Celtic celebrations, Beltaine. Every six weeks in that pagan tradition, there is a holiday of sorts–which I think is a splendid way to mark the passing of seasons, particularly winter. Beltaine falls midway between the winter solstice and the summer solstice and signals that Mother Earth is renewing herself. Cattle were returned home from their winter feeding grounds and bonfires were made to welcome the sun’s return. Like May Day, which has become the modern holiday, a bush, usually Hawthorn, was decorated with ribbons. Flowers, especially yellow ones, were made into wreaths and brought into homes. Like most Celtic rituals, the eve of the holiday is when the boundary between human and supernatural worlds was erased and it was important to be on the lookout for witches and fairies who might cause mischief. For some reason, dusting was to be avoided at all costs, and I’ve embraced that rule this week-end as I see dust bunnies gathered in the corner in the new light of spring.
There are little buds and tight furls of green on the ends of branches. I noticed this morning that the twisty vine that wraps itself around trees is showing small green leaves. I think it’s the Virgin’s Bower which means there will soon be delicate lavender blossoms here and there on the vine. (I often think that someone must have written a fairy tale of how a young virgin, in a lavender gown, has wrapped herself around an unwanted suitor, squeezing him to death–okay, a very dark fairy tale!). The underground spring up on the road is beginning to flow again, and is making the road wet where it is rising closer to the surface. A tiny yellow and purple pansy bloomed in the cracks between the stones on the terrace, and it lived for a few days on the window sill in the little vase Duncan made for me in his pottery class. The osprey are home and hanging out in their nests. And, the loons are back. First there was their haunting call a few days ago, and yesterday, I went down by the lake to watch them glide by close to shore. Bit by bit, with rain and sunshine, spring is emerging. It’s like that lovely line from a poem by the Irish poet, Derek Mahon–“in a tide of sunlight between shower and shower”.
We’ve all been through so much these past two years and there are wounds and scars to go around. There is so much to be afraid of right now in the world, and all feels so fragile. But, “the sun rises in spite of everything” and, in springtime, in our best moments, which we must tenderly protect, there are times when it can feel like, “everything is going to be all right.”
Everything is Going to be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
Derek Mahon, from Selected Poems