April has offered us the usual smorgasbord of weather in its first week or so……………… “The sun was warm but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day when the sun is out and the wind is still, You’re one month on in the middle of May. But if you so much as dare to speak, a cloud comes over the sunlit arch, a wind comes off a frozen peak, and you’re two months back in the middle of March.” *
April is a transition month or perhaps a roller-coaster ride where our hopes are continually being lifted up and then dashed. I have read that spring moves north about 13 miles/day — depending on altitude, of course. That’s a bit of fun — envisioning frilly, trumpeted daffodils marching north. Those of us who live in the northern climes must appreciate that we can grow tulips, hyacinths and daffodils where our southern neighbors find it difficult. Spring bulbs need a cold season so there’s a fragrant, colorful reason for bitter winds and endless snow (although right now Minnesota is probably wondering…).
Palm Sunday is this coming weekend, and leads into Holy Week, from thence we come to Good Friday, Passover and Easter. The stories and history that go with these holy days have lived on through many generations and hopefully will, in generations to come. With fewer families in Sunday school and church, there is a large hole in cultural knowledge — not to mention spiritual awareness. References to Biblical stories that we consider common knowledge are not anymore. A child came as a guest to Sunday school last December, and had never heard the real Christmas story. There seem to be so few certainties in today’s world; rites, their stories, and celebrations are instrumental in keeping us grounded and aware of our roots. I am reassured by the familiar palm branches and a week later, transported by the fragrance of Easter lilies.
Easter is when I put out our collection of eggs; wooden, marble and one fragile actual egg shell, decorated with intricate designs, from Poland. Eggs symbolize new life within life. Easter Sunday is also when our Sunday school kids make the “empty tombs” — biscuits baked with a marshmallow in the middle, leaving a space surrounded with sweetness. Tradition and for many, the meaning of life!!
A tradition that has little to do with the spiritual emphasis of this season involves Easter bonnets. I like hats and I loved my little-girl Easter bonnets. For a while, children seemed to not be wearing them anymore, but I notice that young parents are once again shopping for hats, special spring dresses, and little boy suits. Small dressed-up kiddies are just so innocently appealing. The childhood hat that I remember with the most affection was a pale straw confection trimmed with black velvet ribbon and daisies. That was also the year that, for some reason I can’t recall, my father took me shopping for an Easter dress. I do remember being unable to decide between the apricot cotton with the smocking and the pale pink organdy with rosebuds. My father, quickly tiring of shopping with a ten-year-old girl, bought both! This etched an impression in my mind that going shopping with Dad was a really good idea. ☺ My last Easter hat was probably purchased 1969-ish. It was a pale yellow straw cloche, with flattened ivory silk flowers against a yellow velvet band. I think it might be around in a hat box; one of the few not relegated to the dress-up box.
Currently our Easter celebration means gathering family for dinner — usually on the day before. The more friends and family members who can share the afternoon with us, the merrier! The catching up on what we’ve all been doing, and laughter, all add to what is a meaningful and moving season. Hopefully, by then, daffodils will be in full bloom, lighting up my garden beds and breezes will be a bit warmer. What really makes the day good though is being together. Lillian Gish** said: “If you were to ask what is most important in a home, I would say memories.” We can have the house in perfect order (not likely!!), set the table with spring flowers and Grandma’s Pink Tower Spode china, and have an array of wonderful food —- but all of that pales compared with simply seizing the day and making lasting memories. This year, part of those memories may (depending on energy and bad backs) include an attic cleansing; getting some muscular help in removing boxes and boxes of books. Maybe we’ll even be able to get out the printing press lurking in the far corner.
Happiness is a strange thing. If it is considered a goal, that can only lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment. But if we realize that happiness is a by-product that comes along-side our choices and practices, we then enjoy life greatly. If we think about what makes us most content and we find most pleasurable, we quickly realize that those things mostly stem from simple sources. There are full-page spreads; urgings for great times in glitzy casinos, crowded night clubs, ten-level cruise ships, etc. And I’m sure there is fun to be found in those arenas if one enjoys noise and crowds. But I find that congenial conversation with friends, music, a bright sunny day in the garden, sharing lunch with people I like —- those are the places I find the greatest happiness, and also the greatest affirmation.
We all have difficulties; some things that happen to us are so traumatic and life-changing that living with them requires all of our inner resources. But we can choose our responses. I saw something recently that said: “If you complain a lot, you will see more and more things to complain about. If you are grateful, those good things will also multiply.” Whatever it takes in the areas of attitude-adjustment or counseling is worth the time and effort if it brings us out of the darkness that comes with loss and bad experiences. A spiritual source, our choices and good friends help us to do that. Gratitude for what we do have helps. It is so important to our mental health (and probably physical health too) to notice and be delighted with the small things of each day and the people around us —-to choose happiness. Edith Wharton*** says: “One can remain alive……if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things and happy in small ways.”
We’ve had a large dollop of sorrow this week amid our joys. Freckles, our English setter of 15 years exited this life last weekend. He very suddenly was unable to walk and had obvious and serious intestinal issues. Freckles lightened our lives in many ways — he was funny, full of energy, notably malicious when he didn’t get his way, loving and loyal. In a sense, he “belonged” to a rather wide group of friends and family because he always welcomed people at the door and went around greeting each person at a party. There were two special people that he welcomed with bouncy enthusiasm because they were kind enough to tend to him when we had to be gone for an afternoon and evening, and understood his pleasure in walks and snacks. It has been difficult to watch him become less mobile and less energetic, but he has lived a good life and loved us well and that is a fitting epitaph for anyone. However, it will be a while before we stop expecting to see him curled up in a cushy chair when we get up, or stop thinking he would like to lick the empty ice cream box out before we throw it away.
Whatever you are doing this week, I wish you strength and courage for the challenges and comfortable times for rest and many good moments. May the remainder of April be less capricious, and may you find joy in however you celebrate Passover, Easter, spring and newness of life.
Carol may be reached at: email@example.com.
*”Two Tramps in Mudtime” by Robert Frost — American poet. 1874-1963
**Lillian Gish –American actress of screen and stage, director, writer. 1893-1993
***Edith Wharton—American writer and designer. 1862-1937