Sunday, April 14, 2019

April Magic

    This is an ode to April, an unapologetic, unabashed, and unreserved hymn to this special month. April is one of my favorite months, and I delight in watching it unfold.  The wonderful ongoing changes in the landscape and the weather resonate with just about everyone, bringing people out of their houses, onto the streets, and into their gardens. Walking around Mt Airy these days finds lawns filled with yellow and white dandelions, crocuses and tulips of different colors, daffodils and more. The smell of mulch is in the air as spring gardeners are pruning, cutting, and planting on lawns, in window boxes and in backyards. The cherry trees, lily and saucer magnolias, and peach trees are fully out now, and looking down just about any street in the Northwest gives us stunning views of bright leaves, shrubs, and bushes that suddenly popped into being just a few weeks ago. It is lighter for longer now, and we are getting steadily warmer days. Days that start in the 30’s or low 40’s at 6 AM move into the 40’s and 50’s by midday. These bright days infect everyone with smiles and laughter. Spring is fully here, and the rebirth of the earth is well underway. It is a joyous time.

 Throughout most of human history and for most cultures, spring was the logical and natural start of the “new year.’ The idea of starting over was clearly present in the landscape, the ways of animals, the growth of foliage and crops, and the length of the day. As we all know humans often look to what the earth is doing as a guide for symbolic and/or religious observances and rituals. So April has special observances that symbolically speak to the reality of a new beginning. Passover and Easter are close together this year, and both of these are rituals of rebirth and new starts. The ideas of resurrection and of a new nation bursting into being are in-line with the season-a new “way of being” arising out of and standing as a victory over death. It is fitting that both of these holy days are very key ones for their respective religions; this is where they are born. April is also host to Earth Day, a day dedicated to caring for and restoring the earth and attempting to save it from human destruction it. As the earth and its natural inhabitants are doing what they do and symbolically reflecting the rebirth of the planet, many humans are now dedicating themselves to actually restoring, respecting and caring for it. And with the effects of pollution, outsized energy consumption, climate change and more being felt all around us, we clearly need to do much, much more to restore and rescue our planet in more than merely symbolic ways. And quickly.

 April is also host to several other observances that are personally very important to me and that also convey elements of change and growth. One of these is National Library Month, which in my own life has definitely been linked to personal growth and renewal. As readers of these missives know, I passionately love and support libraries. When I was a kid it was libraries that fed my curiosity and provided me with information, direction, and a sense of personal power, and without that presence and availability of free public libraries and school libraries, who knows where I would be. My family was not well off, but I could go to the listening room at the main library at 19th and the Parkway and discover and listen to the music that I loved. And I could discover new artists. It was in the reference section of libraries where I found out about Black cowboys, African art, world history and more. It was in the library where I discovered and explored modern American an experimental poetry. April is, in fact, National Jazz Month and National Poetry Month, and I dived into  both of these things freely and endlessly in libraries. Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Kenneth Patchen, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison: I first encountered these musicians and writers who have been life-long influences of mine at the library. Libraries have always been part and parcel of what has taken me from what I know into new places and new ideas, and they still do. I encourage people to use and to financially support them. As historian Barbara Tuchman said, “Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.” It is up to us to help those doors remain open.

   April, then is a big and important month for me. It announces change and restoration, rebirth and continued growth, and possibilities in many exciting ways, both real and symbolic. It is like a trumpet, announcing a grand beginning or entrance. As I wrote in 2017, each year we have the opportunity to“…consciously join this annual celebration of rebirth. Slow down; get out of the car. Walk; look up from the screens that seem to dominate so much of life these days and see what is going on around us. Unplug and listen closely. There is a lot of life going on all around us, and it is wonderful to acknowledge it.” April is calling, and we only have to answer.