After It’s News

We live our lives by the news cycle.  It tells us what to think about and worry about, often beyond our local, daily concerns.  And sometimes we forget about yesterday’s headliners.  If you’re curious about whatever became of actual Hurricane Ian, I can tell you.  He’s been hanging around here.  Oh, he’s a mere shadow of his former self, becoming just a low-pressure system sitting off the Atlantic coast between New York and Philadelphia.  And spinning, and spinning, and spinning.  Around here we haven’t seen the sun since last Thursday.  The rain has been intermittent, but yesterday it was pretty much all day and he’s set to continue dominating the skies here at least through today.  Your typical hurricane, if there is such a thing, just keeps moving until it reaches unpopulated areas and nobody cares any more.  This one has been a long-term guest.

With the first few days of lassitudinous rain we had maybe an inch.  Rainfall spat and sputtered and sprinkled.  Yesterday it began to really come down and as I write this it’s too dark to tell but I can hear it splashing on my windows.  The toadstools popping up in the yard are impressive.  As has been the wind and below average temperatures.  I’m wearing my winter-level protection and dodging raindrops on my morning jogs.  Some days I’ve had to delay them for the water.  Not too many other people are out taking their exercise, I notice.  The Weather Channel’s taken to calling it just a low-pressure system, but we’re on a first-name basis now.  Ian is still very much a thing.  At the end of “daylight” yesterday the rain gauge read about three inches.

The thing about these “unusual” storms is they’re becoming the norm.  Global warming has been affecting us for years now, even as we deny it exists.  Our summer around here was very hot and very dry.  The dry was okay by me, but the heat prevented any outdoor work or play for a good deal of the time.  Days when you’d stay inside and try your hardest not to move.  We had maybe one or two days of transitional weather then boom, straight to November.  The leaves around here are still mostly green although they’ve been starting to change more readily now that October’s arrived with December in it’s train.  Forecasters tell us, like Annie says, the sun will come out tomorrow.  Around here we sure hope that’s right.  I wonder what else is happening hidden behind the news?

Not Ian, but you get the picture

Lost Day

There’s a continuity of life and we’re used to it with only small, regular interruptions, such as a night’s sleep.  Each day builds on the previous one with plans being fulfilled, projects attempted, and yes, work.  Then something happens to disrupt that and it’s like starting over again.  I imagine (and feel for), for instance, those who’ve lost everything to Hurricane Ian are going through it.  They are reassessing and rebuilding, even as around here we’re beginning to get some of its rain.  A break in continuity may be smaller, however, and on an individual scale.  I had, for example, my first Shingrix vaccine in January.  Never having reacted to any vaccine before I was completely caught off guard when the next day I couldn’t get out of bed.  But more than that, I knew this was a two-part vaccine, and I was going to face this again.

I kept putting it off.  I needed to have a day when continuity could be broken so that I could recover.  That’s always tricky because I’m busy all the time.  I’ve got a book manuscript under a December deadline and I have to work every weekday.  Yesterday I took a personal day and had Shingrix 2 after work on Thursday.  Yesterday was a lost day.  Although I knew this was an important vaccine, like the various Covid vaccines I’ve had, I wasn’t ready for the consequences.  With short periods of wakefulness, I slept until 1:30 in the afternoon, unable to do anything.  Feverish, I couldn’t read without falling back asleep.  Working on my book was out of the question.  Meanwhile, emails kept coming in, asking for this or that.

The lost day takes some time for recovery.  It’s not nearly so bad as those who’ve lost their homes and communities because of this massive storm that’s tapping its outer fringes on my windows right now.  Still, I have to try to remember where I left off.  Amazingly, after sleeping for some seventeen hours, I was nevertheless ready for bed at the usual time last night.  The nurse who gave me the vaccine assured me that it was better than having the actual disease.  I don’t doubt that.  Those I know who’ve had shingles warn that it’s nothing to mess with.  Still, I sit here slightly stunned this early Saturday morning, wondering where I left off before all of this began.  The continuity has been temporarily broken, and I lost a day in there.  I’d forgotten what it’s like to sit in a chilly room before sunrise with a tabula rasa before me.  But I do recall that I have a final manuscript due in a couple months.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Tuning Up

Climate change is marked by its erratic behavior.  I can relate.  Nevertheless, one of my favorite things in the whole wide world is the slow transition of summer to winter.  Autumn includes that honeymoon time between air conditioning and furnace when you have perhaps a month of reasonable utility bills.  After that hot summer we had around here, this weekend showed why we call it “fall.”  I awoke yesterday morning only to feel the indoor temperature slipping into winter range.  (Seriously.  The furnace isn’t on yet.)  It was 41 degrees outside, a full five degrees lower than projected.  There’s a subtle insidiousness to morning chills.  I tend to wake around three or four, but that’s not the coldest part of the night.  No, that comes just before sunrise.  Morning connoisseurs know that.  It’s always coldest before the dawn.

Weather forecasting is a dicey business, not for the faint of heart.  When it’s getting uncomfortably chilly, a degree or two can make a difference.  You see, I get out of bed, throw on some lounging clothes, and go into another room where I won’t disturb anybody.  That means if I underestimate how cold the house will be, I’ll spend some time shivering until those who awake on normal schedules get up.  That, or I have to wear a jacket indoors.  I’m not above that, of course, but it’s only September.  Honeymoon time.  Global warming doesn’t mean it’s going to be hot all the time.  So all of this has me thinking about winter already.  It’s only September and I’m already wearing fingerless gloves.

I’m extremely sensitive to cold.  I attribute it to a case of mild frostbite I had as a teen.  The cold didn’t bother me so much before then.  My brother and I, dutifully awaiting the school bus, stood for the required half hour or so at the bus stop.  It was bitterly cold and there was no bus shelter.  When we were finally allowed to head home the pain was incredible.  My extremities are still chilled at the slightest suggestion.  On all but the hottest days my feet can count on being cold.  The  morning skies were a beautiful blue yesterday, suggesting that the predicted cloudiness of the previous night had not performed, allowing full radiational cooling.  Yes, global warming is real and all of us alive today will be dealing with it for the remainder of our time here on earth.  That doesn’t mean it’ll always be hot outside.  It does mean the honeymoon may be over. 


Is It That Time Already?

Maybe it’s just me, but August seems to be the new October.  If any of you are experiencing the heat wave that’s (oddly enough) like global warming, my apologies.  Around here—and local is what we all are—nights are cool enough to require blankets after our very hot July.  In fact, I need long sleeves and long pants in the mornings, it’s so chilly.  By mid-afternoon I’m starting to roast, but the grass is brown and that October feeling is in the air.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m awake at odd hours and the perspective from this time of day is somehow prescient.  Who knows?  As I try to sneak a jog in before work I see the walnuts have already gone yellow.  And I wonder.

We idealize the weather of our youth.  That sense of oughtness sets in early.  This is the way the weather should go.  We’ve been pouring greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, however, for all of my life and before.  The warning signs have been around for decades but somehow liars with false hair convince us that any progress ought to be reversed.  I wonder if he’s been outside lately.  The planet is constantly changing based on the larger picture.  It has been doing this for eons, well before our species evolved.  Thinking it was created for us distorts our thinking.  The real question is whether we’ll be able to adapt.  I can’t say the prognosis is rosy, given how we’re constantly trying to kill those who live just across that mountain range, or that wide river.  We can’t seem to coexist.

I like October.  Still, I can’t help but think of all the things we didn’t get done this summer because it was too hot to be working outside.  Or we couldn’t get contractors to return our calls.  Seasons change as the atmosphere tries to adjust to all the chemicals we cough out.  October and its monsters seem to arrive earlier each year.  I’ve been feeling it for weeks already.  Seasons are really negotiations.  Around here, in this temperate zone, we spend most of the year with the furnace on, taking the edge off cold mornings and trying to keep this drafty house habitable for about six months of the year.  Everything’s constantly in flux and we simply try to adjust.  Not even the sun will last forever.  But for now I see the signs of harvest season beginning, and I feel the change in the air.  And I can sense October just around the corner. So goes August.


Dark v Light

The summer solstice was days away and the earliest sunrise had already passed.  The earliest sunrise and the latest sunset are not on the same day.  To those of us who rise before the sun, it does make a difference.  I’m a morning jogger (when my back allows it).  I prefer to go out before work because otherwise you have to interrupt your day to put on your scuzzies and then come back all sweaty, hoping you didn’t forget about a meeting just after.  The thing is, I start work early and my preferred jogging time is around 5 a.m.  Back in May it’s easy to believe that this timetable is workable.  Then in August, almost like it’s pinned to the first of the month, you realize that it will be much closer to six than five before it’s light enough to see.  So the seasons go.

Even in the midst of a heat wave, you can smell autumn coming.  Yes, I know there will be hot days and uncomfortable nights yet.  But just as surely as Back to School merchandise begins to appear in July (school had been out maybe two weeks by then), fall inexorably follows summer.  Around here it’s been drier than normal.  Stressed trees began shedding leaves in July as if to say, “Alright, we’ll give this a try again next year.”  They are much more obvious about seasonal changes than the rest of us, but we’re all impacted by the always shifting patterns of light and warming, or cooling, mercury.  Seasons remind us of what it means to be mortal beings.  Melancholy isn’t always a bad thing.

Being a morning person, at least in my case, means spending quite a bit of my creative time in the dark.  In fact, back in June it’s like it gets light too soon for me to go jogging right away—I still have things to do first.  I also know it will still be some time before it’s dark when I go to bed.  I have no trouble sleeping in the light.  Our schedules are part of our perceptions of time and light.  We all agree, more of less, that from nine to five we’ll be at our desks, whiling away the most productive hours of sunlight.  I remember commuting to work in the dark only to commute home also in the dark.  Using that time for creativity is important, but so is trying to keep healthy.  Like the great dramatic acts of the solstices and equinoxes, it’s all a matter of balance.


Conflicting Lifestyles

Sleep patterns often don’t fit with work patterns.  The reason I wake up so early is that for years I had to do it to get to Manhattan.  For work.  Since ending the commuting lifestyle four years ago, I haven’t been able to adjust back to normal, whatever that may be.  During a recent heatwave weekend, when it wasn’t really conducive to be doing yard work, I suggested to my wife that we watch The Godfather on Sunday afternoon.  Somehow I thought it was only two hours, but it is actually much closer to three.  Now this Coppola film is considered one of the greatest movies of all time and I have literally wanted to see it since 1972.  There were no VCRs in those days and life has been, well, busy since college days.

It is a powerful movie, even today.  I knew the basic plot and I started to read (I can’t recall if I finished it) the novel in the early seventies.  All I know is that I sat engrossed as the temperatures tempted 100 degrees outside.  Because I awake so early Sunday afternoons are often sleepy times for me, but I don’t nap.  Napping leads to long nights and I awake early no matter what.  The movie doesn’t allow for a lapse of interest.  One of the scenes that had the most impact is when Michael is attending the baptism of his godson and the priest asks him if he renounces Satan intercut with scenes of his hitman killing his rival family bosses.  The religious nature of the violence in the story is perhaps one of its most shocking elements, even today.

That night it was still hot, and all the water that I drank during the day made itself rather urgently felt around 2 a.m.  The trick to the late night bathroom run is to keep your mind shut off.  Although The Godfather ended nearly twelve hours earlier, it crept back into my head, keeping me awake after that.  Of course, I had a full day of work—there are no allowances for aging in this thing of ours called capitalism—ahead.  The thing is, when else do we find three consecutive hours to catch up with a cultural landmark but a Sunday afternoon?  Are you supposed to take a vacation day to do it?  I have no regrets about having watched the movie—it was like an offer I couldn’t refuse.  It’s just the rest of life that, well, simply won’t compromise.


Solstice Thoughts

At the equator, the difference is nil.  The longest day and the shortest day don’t deviate from the standard day length.  The further you move from the equator, the more dramatic the effect is.  Here in the northern hemisphere this is our longest day, the solstice.  Historically, particularly in countries to the northern edge of the northern hemisphere, this is a holiday.  Midsummer marked the days of sun and growth.  Light is abundant—too abundant to sleep well in the furthest reaches.   Being visually oriented creatures, we enjoy the surfeit of light.  Light has long been a symbol of the divine for, I suppose, just that reason.  It makes us feel secure and safe.  We can see what’s going on around us.

In Antarctica, today is the shortest day of the year.  Indeed, around now there is seldom any light at all.  On the exact same day there are literally polar opposites on this planet.  The summer here is winter there.  It’s the first day of winter in the global south.  Their understanding of this day is completely different.  Of course, once you reach the shortest day, things can only improve.  The climb to summer lasts half a year, only to have the decline immediately begin again.  The difference is as subtle as it is inexorable.  For those of us who wake before the sun, it’s already obvious that sunrise is coming later than it did last week.  The earliest sunrise was the fourteenth.  Sunset will come later and later for the next few days, to compensate for the lost morning light, but overall there will be less and less until we are the winter half of the world.

There are many lessons to learn here.  In a world where the longest and shortest days are the same day—solstices depend on where you live—we don’t fight over it.  This despite the fact that light is our most precious commodity.  We simply accept that we celebrate light when we have it, and await its coming when we don’t.  Other resources we fight over.  Potable water.  Petroleum products.  Arable land.  Silently, radiantly, light shows us the way.  There’s an inevitability here.  Through long experience on the earth we simply accept it.  The other option is to fight over what we can’t control, which is futility defined.  There are lessons to learn from the longest day.  And if it’s your shortest day, you know that all will be forgiven at the next equinox.


Heat Wave

Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future wasn’t my favorite book read the first half of this year, but reading the headlines about India’s heatwave took me back to it.  That’s precisely the way the book starts out—with an intense, deadly heat wave in India.  As a nation lacking infrastructure in relation to the size of its population, and lying near the equator, India is particularly vulnerable to global warming.  We all are.  As the planet heats up and weather becomes more erratic and extreme, food shortages will appear.  At the moment we’re concerned because Covid and Putin-War have driven inflation to incredible highs.  A trip to the grocery store or gas station is like a horror film.  Meanwhile the planet’s heating up and Republicans are pushing for four more years of Trump environmental degradation.  Can we please open a window here?

Global warming has been challenged by many because of their religious conviction that the world ought to end.  Apocalypse is probably the Bible’s most dangerous teaching.  Speaking only for myself, I didn’t know there was an Indian heatwave until headlines took a break from Putin-War and America’s mass shooting crisis.  And oh, India’s sweltering under temperatures over 110 degrees.  People are dying.  Birds are falling from the sky in mid-flight.  We had a couple days in the 90s around here before the end of May.  Those were some uncomfortable times.  Meanwhile in India it was twenty degrees hotter.

The human ability to ignore life-threatening problems we create for ourselves in service of our theology is remarkable.  Even as experts declare religion is no longer important, it’s slowing killing us.  We focus our resources on making money, as if money will do us any good when we’re the lobsters in the pot.  As a species we’re amazingly capable.  Billionaires can afford their own private spaceships—something most nations in the world can’t spare cash to buy—and we have proven ourselves endlessly inventive.  When it comes to the basics—the need to believe, for instance—we turn a blind eye and pretend it’ll just go away.  Religion scorned is a very dangerous thing.  I once heard a talk by a scientist presenting a rosy technological future.  I raised my hand and asked about religious objections and he mused, “I hadn’t even thought about religion.”  His future was progressive and optimistic.  Robinson’s is quite a bit less so, although it ends by suggesting we might manage to pull through, with only millions of deaths.  As Donovan says, “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.”


Horror Deprivation

Is there such a thing as horror deprivation?  Life has been so busy that I haven’t been able to carve out the time to watch any horror movies for several weeks now.  That steady diet has given me blog topics and a strange kind of personal comfort in this all-too-scary world.  More than that, it is often a coping mechanism.  I sometimes think more people might read this blog if I “rebranded” it as horror-themed, but perhaps there’s a different way to go about it.  Some writers, with enough shares and likes, have their daily observations become part of the national wisdom.  The rest of us, it seems, are simply background noise.  I’ve also been told blogs are passè and that may be the case.  I have trouble keeping up.  I don’t even have time to watch horror!

As with most things in life, I keep a list of movies I need to see.  Like claws such a list continues to grow unless it’s trimmed once in a while.  A movie is a couple-hour commitment and when even weekends are programmed to the last minute it’s difficult to squeeze them in.  I always welcome the more pleasant weather of spring, but so does the yard.  I’ve always thought, like good haunted house owners, that I would let the yard go.  Here in town there are ordinances, though.  It doesn’t look tidy—right now dandelions exceed the tolerated grass length a mere day after mowing.  Like triffids they pop up and won’t go away.  I could be in, watching a movie.  My credibility’s on the line here!

The pandemic, from which horror movies will arise, led many people to having too much time.  Netflix soared.  For whatever reason, it had the opposite effect on me—is this a special effect?—I had even less time than before.  I had to cancel my Netflix account because I had no time to use it.  Horror is a coping technique.  Real horrors spill from the headlines daily.  Sometimes the antidote is in the poison itself.  The way to be less scared is to watch more horror.  We’re still in the pandemic and Putin decides to start a war.  Republicans confess that Trump tried to take over by force and then backtrack.  Global warming continues apace.  There comes a point when the only therapy is to watch something worse unfold, as long as it’s fiction.  It’s Saturday.  It’s raining.  What can one possibly do?


Free Research

I’ve lost track of how many times it’s happened, but it has been relatively few.  Someone I don’t know will approach me and ask me to post about something on my blog.  Sometimes they’ll even send me a book to highlight.  Perhaps not the most effective way to build a library, I’ll admit.  And some of the books haven’t been great.  I admire them nonetheless.  It takes great effort to write a book.  And not a small amount of faith, too.  Many books—perhaps most—never get published.  A great many are self-published.  (Those who work in publishing can be a stuck-up lot sometimes.)  Even those professionally published can use a push from time to time.  On this blog I’ve actively resisted the urge to make it about one thing.  Why?  Is life just one thing?

In a recent conversation I laid out for someone new what had been my research agenda as a young professor.  It had a direction still reflected in some of the categories you’ll find on the right column of this blog.  After writing on Asherah, I was going to give similar treatment to the other ancient goddesses attested at Ugarit.  This was perhaps ambitious for an academic waif at Nashotah House, but it was well underway.  My book on Shapshu was making good progress when the market (that dragon to every St. George) led friends to suggest turning biblical, which led to Weathering the Psalms.  A new research agenda—explore the weather terminology (the meteorotheology) of other biblical books—arose.  There were storms, after all, becalmed over lakes.  Horror entered in the jobless period and beyond.

And social justice.  I’m not a thrice-failed minister for nothing!  In fact, a recent freebie was a book on social justice.  I have a colleague as interested in monsters as me.  This particular scholar had decided to focus on the cause of the poor.  Even economists are starting to say the unequal distribution of wealth is hurting us.  While the rich fly to space on personally owned rockets, the rest of us have trouble filling up at the service station, even if we have jobs.  So it is that this blog is eclectic.  A friend told me early on that it would be more popular if I just stuck to one topic.  That’s probably true, but my mind can’t settle down like that.  And when people send me things to talk about, I’m happy to do so, if it fits somewhere in my mind.


Easter Weather

The weather doesn’t always cooperate for holidays.  Easter is, at heart, a celebration of spring—life after death.  Around here this holiday has been accompanied by fits and starts in warmer weather and instead of warmer it’s actually colder again.  Just a week ago there was snow in the air.  Life’s that way; you don’t always know what to expect.  I guess I’m still in hibernation mode.  No matter the season, there never seems to be enough time to sleep.  As a youth I always attended sunrise services on Easter.  These days I regularly rise before the sun, so as long as I’m capable it’s like every day is Easter.  But with work.  Even on what many recognize as Easter—which overlaps with Passover this year—the Orthodox feel we have it too early, what with the Julian calendar still being in effect.  It’s all a matter of how we look at time.

As much as I hate mowing, I admire the exuberance of grass.  It’s ready to welcome the longer days by stretching toward the sun.  Drinking in the plenteous rain.  The dandelions have already begun to spread, opening their yellow eyes to all and sundry passing insects.  Easter is a time to reflect on life returning after winter.  And I can’t help but think of those in the southern hemisphere for which Easter falls in the autumn.  The theology fails to match the seasons as life springs up just as winter is about to set in.  The Christian viewpoint is a northern one, keyed to our seasons.  The weather doesn’t always observe the prevailing theology.

Around here Good Friday was a fine, sunny day.  Like most of the fine, sunny days it was a work day.  Now it’s a chillier Easter, the Saturday between being a mix with some rain.  When I was young—eagerly awaking for sunrise services, which I often had a hand in designing—I marveled at how the weather often seemed to cooperate.  Now as I think back, I remember coming out of Good Friday services into the incongruous sunshine and finding many an Easter still bearing an unseasonal chill.  Weather is, of course, a local and global phenomenon.  One person’s chilly Easter is too hot for someone further away.  And for yet others the onset of autumn.  Globalism has taught us to look further, to think in terms of how others might be experiencing this world.  Easter seems an appropriate time to do just that.


Sexist Instructions

The thing about cars is there’s so much that can go wrong.  And when it does it’s costly to fix it.  Yet, even when working from home, we need them.  We have two, both quite old in car years.  One is approaching twenty.  We bought it new—the first time we’d ever been able to achieve such a feat.  This was one of the new Beetles and it has had never-ending electronic issues.  Warning lights come on that seem to be a malfunction of the warning lights—if you ever wanted an existential situation that’s one right there.  How do you know if there’s something wrong with your engine or is it just something wrong with the warning light?  A worrisome one came on just as winter was settling in and we didn’t need to drive it much before inspection time and we let it sit a little too long.

The battery, naturally, died.  We have an old, seldom used battery jump-starter, which, in the cold of the garage, also died.  We’ve been trying to find time on the weekend when both my wife and I are free (rare) so that I can drive it a ways to try to recharge the battery, but with someone home who can rescue me if I get stuck.  So it was we came to buy a new jump-starter.  These new ones are the size of a cell phone on steroids—much smaller than the old kind.  Ours came from China, I’m guessing, and the instructions are sexist.  They imply that women can use this because it’s easy.  Part of the description reads “It can be used more than 30 times, giving you peace of mind, no matter where you are, if the battery runs out, you can start it without looking for women who are not smart at night in an empty parking lot, such as a college campus or forget you.”  I don’t know about you, but this sounds like the writer had a past he’s trying to deal with.

I was indeed once left stranded because of a dead car battery.  It’s a story I’m saving for my autobiography, if I ever write one, but let me assure you all the people responsible for that abandonment were men.  Men with a car that wouldn’t start while I sat in the middle of nowhere in the dark.  (This was before cell phones.)  I didn’t want to buy a sexist device.  Both men and women have batteries die and I’m always a little scared to jump-start a car.  At least now we can get the Beetle rolling again and drive toward a future where women are rightfully seen as equal to men.  And I hope that instruction writer has found some help, perhaps with therapy.


April Says

I can honestly say that it wasn’t on my bucket list to mow the lawn while it was snowing.  Friday would’ve been better—sunny and sixty—but I have a 925 and I had a meeting after work I couldn’t get out of.  Saturday it rained all day, which, I know, grass loves.  Sunday was the only opportunity left in the weekend, and with stocking cap and gloves on, I went to mow.  Snow started to fall.  It must be April.  I’ve always believed that “April fools” has an origin in the weather.  I can’t prove it, but it seems just when you think it’s safe to go without a coat, suddenly winter.  Back when we lived in Wisconsin we took a family fun trip to Wisconsin Dells for my wife’s birthday in April.  It snowed.  We rode the famous ducks and then played mini-golf amid squalls.  April fools.

The weather influences many aspects of life.  Why it’s considered a neutral topic I don’t know.  It’s kind of like talking about God.  The only thing we all agree on is that we can’t control it.  Well, we can certainly influence it.  Global warming sets strange weather patterns into motion.  It was in the seventies less than a month ago.  (Which is why grass was unruly just as April began its double-digits.)  Then there’s all the rain.  See what I mean about God?  Divinity and weather were in mind as I worked on Weathering the Psalms.  I still wrestle with how these things relate to each other in the human psyche.  We do tend to think the weather is somehow a judgment or blessing.

My family knows I complain about it religiously.  And mowing isn’t my favorite activity in any weather.  It was late November and I was still mowing.  April (which fools) seems to be a little too soon to be starting that all over again.  Committing at least one day of every weekend until nearly next Christmas to cutting grass.  It’s a long-term commitment.  I suspect those who benefit (monetarily, for we all lose, existentially) from global warming probably don’t mow their own lawns.  They probably have their private jets that don’t need to be jump started because that worrying idiot-light on the dash is on again and they’re afraid to use it.  It’s life in a different key.  Still, we all share the weather.  When it affects crops, or swamps New York City, we’ll all be bound to notice.  Enough grumbling.  It’s time to get the weed-whacker fired up while the icicles start to form.  April fools.


1 April

Image credit: Trocche100, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The funny thing is nobody knows how it got started.  In living memory, and indeed back a century or two—even more—people have considered April 1 a day for jokes and fooling.  Perhaps it was a kind of relief after winter was finally beginning to show its tail, or perhaps it was some distortion of Hilaria, the Roman festival of the goddess Cybele.  Some have speculated that it had to do with switching from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar when many were confused as to what the actual date was.  No matter what its origins are, April Fools has stuck.  It has such resonance that even legislation passed on this date is sometimes questioned as to whether it is serious.  Some locations have grand pranks planned and budgeted.

Nobody, as noted, knows how this got started.  One of my personal favorites posits a biblical origin.  Things tend to go back to the Bible in western culture, don’t they?  This idea takes it all the way back to the tenth generation of the human race: Noah’s flood.  Back in the eighteenth century it was suggested that Noah sent out his first dove before the waters abated on April 1 (this, of course, is based on knowing the exact days of creation—something that was of considerable interest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).  Since the dove was sent on a “fool’s errand”—there was no dry land visible—well, April fools!

With rare exceptions this isn’t a day off work.  It’s not a holiday with any religious implications, despite speculations about Noah and his dove.  It’s really a day highlighting uncertainty.  Practical jokes can, of course, be harmful.  There can be those, such as yours truly, who might be slow to catch on.  Indeed, almost always the victim of a “practical joke” doesn’t find him or herself in an appreciative mood.  I’ve always personally thought the reference was to the weather.  Snow isn’t unusual into mid-April in parts of the northern tier.  In fact received wisdom suggests not planting annuals until May arrives.  April’s weather, in other words, fools.  Around here we’ve whiplashed through March with days in the seventies and others the coldest of the winter (or so it seemed).  Now we’re into the first full month of spring.  The early flowers are out (some of which succumbed to the cold of this week’s weather) making fools of us all.  My hope is that none of us take this day’s unknown-origin holiday too seriously.


Going Green

It’s easy to get eager at this point in the year.  A month and a half after Groundhog Day, we’re at St. Patrick’s, and just a few days from the equinox itself.  Around these parts we’ve had some warm weather after last weekend’s bomb cyclone and most of the snow is now gone.  We’re ready for progress.  We’re tired of winter and huddling indoors.  The crocuses are defiantly open although the warning saying in Wisconsin went “three snows on the crocuses.”  St. Patrick’s green is the fecund green of spring.  Although nobody gets them off from work, the seasonal holidays are signs of hope.  It doesn’t matter which season into which we’re transitioning, there’s beauty ahead.  It’s the kind of change many people enjoy.

Look closely at a flower.  (If the crocuses aren’t up yet in your area they will be soon.)  Open and inviting, it offers insects what they need in return for a bit of cross-pollination.  Yesterday I saw my first wasp looking for a place to build a nest on our house, reminding me to be careful opening doors now because no transition is completely smooth.  Spring is hope in season form.  As much as we may appreciate winter with its pristine chill, spring reminds us that food is soon to be available from the bosom of the earth itself.  The songbirds, now back in force, have been eagerly anticipating it.  They are the heralds of transition, the little winged messengers of assurance.

Photo credit: Andreas F. Borchert, Wikicommons

It’s time to step outside and breathe deeply.  The muddy smells of a thawing earth blend with the first fruity hints of buds beginning cautiously to open.  The transition’s not straightforward.  There will be setbacks and chills yet to come.  Nevertheless, the die is cast—St. Pat waves his clover as if to say “This is what lies ahead, as brown becomes green.” Our world tilts as it spins and brings us the delight of seasonal changes.  Saints and birds and flowers must agree on this, even should they differ on the details of what is needful.  It’s a day for celebration, even though it’s a Thursday, a work day with perhaps a respite—after hours of course—to have some fun.  Green is about to reappear.  We wear it today to encourage the timid plants, yes, we need hope.  We look around the world and know that hope is what we really all crave.