LOCAL VIEW —APRIL SLEET—

There is nothing like being stuck indoors, doing your taxes, to make absolutely everything else seem preferable. Even the rotten weather has a romantic allure, as if I can faintly sniff distant seaweed on the raw east winds. Of course, that is humbug, but it is a good humbug.

The warm air is stuck to our south. It hasn’t made much progress since this morning. (Click maps, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge.)

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The cold high pressure up over Quebec does not want to budge, and low pressure is shunted out to sea south of us, without a warm sector coming up our way. In fact we get east winds off the cold Atlantic, or even northeast winds from up in Labrador, where the coldest air lurks, below zero even in April. (Below -17.8° Celsius).  We sure don’t want that  stuff coming south.

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This morning you could watch the rain try to come north, but change to snow as it neared us.

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During the day the high sun had such power that even through the overcast it kept the swirling snow and sleet from sticking, however now night has fallen, and the sleet has a power it lacked before.

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It’s hard to focus on taxes when the sleet is tapping at my window, evoking memories of other Aprils, when the yearning for spring wrestled with the final fits of winter. In some ways it is a season unto itself, a sort of false spring, but a false winter as well. It is something you expect, this far north.

In 1990, just before I met my wife, we had temperatures at the start of April up over 90° (32.2° Celsius), and my customers were consumed by a sort of panic about being “behind”, in terms of spring gardening. I remember telling one very sweet old lady it likely would be sleeting in a week, and she shouldn’t plant her tomatoes, but she insisted, and the customer is always correct. Then, around a week later, I was out working in her garden in a bone-chilling rain, which turned to sleet. She called me in, and served me a lovely bowl of hot soup at a table in a glassed-in porch, and as she plunked the bowl in front of me her old, blue eyes looked out over the forlorn scene, and she spoke the three simple words, “You were right.”

In 1973 my teenager-years had just ended, and my gardener’s job was to trudge out into sleet and rain to trim back a rose garden that had gone amazingly out of control, in a widow’s back yard. Her husband had loved roses, but after he died the garden had turned into a savage wilderness of wicked thorns so towering and thick you half expected to find a castle holding Sleeping Beauty in the midst. It took me a week to cut it all back to a semblance of control. When I remarked to the widow I had never seen roses so vigorous, she simply smiled and said, “My husband loved those roses so much he asked that his ashes be spread among their roots. I guess he is part of the plants by now.”

That is a northern April. It is a splicing of two incongruous ropes, Death and Rebirth.

 I hear you tapping at my window,
Silver April Sleet, laughing as wind’s blow
A shudder down the street, and things don’t grow,
As you pepper buds with patters, for you know
What matters, and what shatters the blunt-willed
Farmer slogging in big boots, and makes song birds
Slouch silent on wet twigs, so disgruntled
They won’t peep. I hear you tap, but what’s heard’s
A song sweeter than waxed ears hear. You cast pearls
Of silver-grey over a drab landscape,
Singing songs so unlike snow’s that, though wind hurls
Needles in my face, I find escape.
When you cast your pearls, it is not to swine,
For April has ears that can hear the Divine.

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