April is the cruelest month?
‘April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering : Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers’
(The Wasteland - TS Eliot).
Lord! Mr Eliot - you should have lived in Shiddenfield before you wrote these lines? Did you get out enough? Did you open your windows wide to shut out the misery of the world service to rejoice rather in noise and racket of a dawn chorus sung by a thousand vibrant birds? I don’t wish to be rude Mr. Eliot my tortured poet, but sweet pea, did you never see the earth rising with joy under a warm sun?
This month of spring is awash with shades of green that will never return again this year. Walk with your eyes wide open! The trees stir and colour from black to brown, to mud , to yellow, to verdant lime as tender leaves step out onto twigs and branches. Birds at this time are beside themselves with excitement, flirting and building. My hens in the garden remember themselves and begin to lay eggs. Each one received into the world with great crows of triumph. Easter and rebirth is here.
A lilac , I grant you Mr. Eliot, is pent up with tiny budding flowers, but dead land? A Wasteland? My memory returns. Words that disappeared into the cold ground over winter return with each shoot pushing its way through compost and leaves. I remember, this is Valerian, this is Meadow Rue, That is the Angelica, Sneezewort and False Nettles. Here are the Alliums and Wood Anemones. Snakehead Fritillaries punctuate the borders. I recognise the Black Elder. The nameless, forgotten bulbs reveal themselves as Tulips, Bluebells and late flowering Narcissus. Lilies of the Valley appear in beds I forgot I had planted last autumn. Primroses, Violets and Cowslips tuck themselves into every corner. A Cherry Tree takes up the baton from a Magnolia tree whose flowers are falling fast back to earth. No matter, the Cherry flings out its starry blossoms to trace white voile patterns against blue and grey skies.
Mr Eliot, indeed, April is a month that keeps us waiting. We wait for the Cuckoo to fly back from Africa, we wait for Swallows and Swifts, we are waiting for the full joy of summer roses, of elderflowers and hawthorn. Will they come Mr Eliot, will the birds thrive, survive and return? We can but hope Mr. Eliot. Hope -hold on to that. The Christian season of Easter is of fasting, repentance, a torture, a death on a monstrous leafless tree. Is that what you thought Mr. Eliot? Death and no resurrection? A hopeless meaningless sacrifice to an implacable God? Let the scholars pick over those bones Mr. Eliot. Walk out into the April lands. Walk with Persephone out of Death’s Cave into the sunshine where the goddesses are rejoicing.