Originally published on or about the 3rd of April in 1998, this is yet another post about a seemingly never ending winter - or the equally pessimistic never arriving spring. Please enjoy.
“ ‘April is the cruellest month,’ ” my wife quoted as we rounded the corner of a building in Saint John, and were met with the full force of a nasty east wind the other day.
It certainly seemed as though T.S. Eliot was right, although he goes on to talk about “breeding Lilacs out of the dead land,” a feat that around here is going to have to wait for the nearer side of two months hence.
Somehow, that spectacular last day of March, when the sun shone and the temperature in the shade got up into the middle seventies Fahrenheit, severely dislocated our thoughts, and made the inevitable return to a grudging spring a good deal harder to take. And an east wind, I don’t care when it arrives, tends to set one’s teeth on edge.
When the wind is in the east
‘Tis neither fit for man nor beast.
Usually March is a month to get through, head down, shoulders hunched, hands stuffed into jacket pockets. Along into April a person can begin to raise his head a bit and look around – cautiously. But when a day in March produces blue skies and puffy clouds that look like summer, and provides the air temperature to go along with – why, it’s hard to know how to behave.
The mind whirls. Should the peas have been planted two weeks ago? What about the onion seed? Good heavens, this is the year we really should have ordered our seeds in January.
It didn’t last. Even as that splendid afternoon drifted lazily along you knew it wouldn’t last. This is Canada, after all. We’ll pay for this, eh?
Of course, it didn’t (last). The aforementioned east wind has blown practically without let or hindrance ever since, under a sky whose lead content is certainly high enough to produce serious brain damage.
But! Did we pay for our splendid day? I really hate to disappoint all the Calvinists out there, but I don’t think so. What we’re getting now is exactly what we would get anyway, nice day in March or no. Don’t tell anybody, but I think we are rolling along with a totally unexpected superb day in March to our credit and no bills outstanding.
There for a while the fire actually went out in the big stove in the living room and, once or twice, even in the kitchen stove. This was not laziness I hasten to add. When the sun was shining in so prettily and warming hearts as well as bodies, there was no need for fires.
All good things come to an end eventually, though. (What that remark does not mention is that bad things come to an end too, only it doesn’t always seem that way.) When the sun stopped shining, we toughed it out for a couple of days. “Spring is coming,” we said firmly. “It’s not nearly as cold as it was a month ago.”
Good old Norman Vincent Peale and his “Power of Positive Thinking” should have been here for those days. We put on increasingly heavy sweaters and tried to ignore the sense that we were wading through cold air that was rising not too slowly from the ankles toward the knees. As I worked at my desk and tried not to move, lest I disturb the cold air around me, I found myself thinking of all those death-bed scenes in Victorian novels with their descriptions of the fatal cold gradually creeping up from the feet of the dear not-quite-departed and heading for the vital centres.
I tried to picture myself inhabiting a kind of micro-climate cocoon. I thought of pictures I have seen of the temperature gradient between a piece of hot iron and the cooler air around it. The cool air is always blue in those pictures, but the area right next to the heated iron goes from blue to green to yellow to a satisfying red. That red layer might only be part of an inch thick, but it kept the cool air away. Did this help? No.
I thought of Tibetan monks meditating in sub-zero temperatures while wrapped in blankets soaked in icy water. Their power of concentration on the warmth of divine love was such that they did not become cold and the blankets gradually dried. Unfortunately, my mind kept straying toward the archetypal Canadian story of freezing to death in a blizzard.
That did it. Skip the positive thinking. Both stoves are being tended again. Spring is coming, but we’re not pushing it.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.