The yellows have arrived at Topsmead—forsythia along the path down to the pond, daffodils scattered along the lanes—accented by mini-carpets of blue, star-shaped snow glories unrolled in the green of the lawn around Miss Edith’s cottage. Random groups of brave picnickers are popping up on the lawn when the sun and the temperature are just right. Topsmead’s very own DEEP personnel, almost done cleaning up the tree damage wrecked by the windy, icy hands of old man winter, scoot around the property in their orange Kuboda vehicle. Handsome new white gates welcome visitors, and the muddy driveway of March has finally dried out.
But wait.... We New Englanders know enough not to be fooled. After all, isn’t the first day of April called April Fool’s Day? And after all, doesn’t the first line of T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” begin with “April is the cruellest month”? It is the month that we humans are ready to be out and about, but it is also the month that the nasty, biting ticks are out and about in the woods and along the trails and looking for any warm-blooded creatures. Forewarned is forearmed!
And wait.... While March pretty much comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb, April always has a mind of her own. True to form, she has been playing a weather game so far this year. Warmer than usual and then colder than usual... Rinse and repeat! Today was sunny, blue sky, and in the sixties for my Topsmead walkabout.
But just you wait.... The weatherman assures us that the temperatures will drop and precipitation will move in, first as rain, then as snow. Remember the Shakespeare play when the old guy told Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March”? Move that warning from Rome to New England, and you get, right on schedule, “Beware the Ides of April. (Note: The ides of any month is the middle of that month.)
Despite the yellow and the blue, a walk about Topsmead makes it clear that the flowers and blooming trees are well aware of the fickle nature of April in New England. The English gardens around the cottage are still in hiding beneath their bare dirt covering with only the tippy tips of plants peeking above their brown, earthen cover. Likewise the butterfly pollinator garden is still hunkering down beneath its brown cover. If you look closely, you can see the faint reddish glow of buds on the deciduous trees, but they are cautiously withholding this year’s crop of green leaves until they are sure of a welcome.
Don’t be fooled! We are so ready to get out and about in the natural world after the confinements of winter and the restrictions of the pandemic, but neither we nor Topsmead are through April yet, nor are we quite through the pandemic. The impending outburst of new activity in the natural world of flora and fauna and in the social world of human beings awaits, but we must be patient and treat both ourselves and the landscape of Topsmead with tender loving care.