Unhurried April

By Jim McGuire - Contributing columnist


April is already more than a week old and we’re still having snow! Sure, only a couple of overnight dustings that amounted to little more than heavy frosts…but snow nevertheless!

Who wudda thunk!

Moreover, recent temperatures in the 20s, 30s, and 40s have felt anything but springlike! Damp mid-50s days, sullen with overcast skies, worsened by bone-chilling winds that wormed under your too-light jacket to send unwelcome shivers coursing down your spine.

From March’s sunny, warm, and spring-in-all-its-glory Easter Sunday, in one short week we seemingly regressed to what feels like a leftover portion of winter. Have our seasons somehow gone haywire?

The truth is, you can’t hurry April. Or perhaps more accurately, you can’t hurry spring. April is all spring, from beginning to end…but not all of spring is springlike. Or rather, not all of spring meets our mental image of spring.

Alas, we tend to suffer from foolish optimism when it comes to the vernal season. Give us one pretty day and we expect those which follow be even nicer. Expectations based on desire rather than history.

April isn’t March, but neither is it May. Instead it’s a fickle bridge that spans the gap between those months while doing a Texas two-step—forward, back, this way and that, advancing, retreating. While the overall direction is promising, the relapses are frustrating, disheartening.

Why can’t spring simply find its way to our doors in a steady, linear progression?

In a larger sense—taking the bigger view—it does. The seasonal cycle is prescribed, predictable. Spring follows winter then flows onward to summer which turns into autumn…and autumn again becomes winter. A complete, never-ending circle—the eternal celestial waltz of earthly spin and tilt as we loop our way around the sun.

But when you focus close, narrowing things down to a weekly, daily, or hour-by-hour examination, nature and the seasonal progression is messy. A stuttering, fuzzy, imprecise journey. It eventually gets where its going, but wanders hither and yon along the way.

Along the river, the willow withes have turned a vibrant electric yellow-green. Budding maples dot a nearby hillside—little bursts of crimson flame which turn the upper branches into a softly blazing bouquet of brilliant red.

April in Ohio is definitely spring, and while the season may enter hesitantly, it arrives sporting many hues.

Most of the bloodroot has already finished blooming, and the pastel hepaticas are probably long gone for this year. But there are still spring beauties, bluets, and trout lilies to be found. The snow temporarily wilted the violets—however, they’re a hardy lot, and the ones in my yard have already rejuvenated.

Unfortunately, neither ice nor cold had any discernible effect on the destructively invasive lesser celandine, which currently blankets area floodplains and riparian corridors with its smothering greenery and shiny bright-yellow blooms.

During a recent morning ramble in a woods a few miles north of my home, I found cut-leafed toothwort and purple cress—but not an expected expanse of Dutchman’s britches. A long bank here is usually covered with them. The plants were up, but only one or two had started to bloom.

This particular property was once a sprawling farm of considerable acreage. Nowadays there are several houses along the road. Former fields are now overgrown tangles of goldenrod, burdock, and similar “undesirables,” everywhere spattered with huge pasture cedars. A hundred or so acres is covered in mature beech/oak woods.

Nothing substantial remains of the original home place. A few limestone foundation blocks scattered among the blackberry briars, one or two nearly rotted timbers, several pieces of rusty metal, a few glass bottles—green, blue, brown, milky-clear—in a small refuse dump down by the creek.

However, come spring, numerous clumps of now wild daffodils shoot up and bloom gaily from various thickets in what was once the old farmstead’s dooryard. Vibrant ghosts among last-autumn’s dried weedstems.

I never see these flowers without thinking about the lady who doubtless planted their original bulbs—how their merry yellows, oranges, and creamy whites must have delighted her eyes and spirits as she hung out the wash on a windy April day.

A couple of hours later, having poked about the dim forest from corner to corner, I considered adjourning to a second patch of old-growth woods up the road which harbors a lovely patch of snow trillium. These diminutive natives are one of spring’s earliest bloomers—though an increasingly rare treasure. Each year I try and visit them on their west-facing hillside which overlooks the river.

But its a fair walk back to the secluded hillside where the snow trilliums grow. By the time I’d returned to my parked truck, I was shivering and chilled to the bone, having underdressed for a day which grew progressively colder. Plus I was starting to develop a sniffle.

April is unhurried…a slow miracle best savored with a dollop of patience. So I bowed to either cowardice or common sense and headed home for a dose of the woodstove’s radiant heat.



By Jim McGuire

Contributing columnist

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at naturalrambler@gmail.com

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at naturalrambler@gmail.com