MY WHISTLE STOP LIFE BY SUSAN WHISTLER
No matter how often the calendar insists that the year starts in January, for me, the year truly begins in April.
April, which poet T.S. Eliot called “the cruellest month” for pulling up lilacs and other plants from their muddy deathbeds and forcing them to live again, is the real beginning. The dark and the cold is gone (or at least we certainly hope it is, after a few false starts). In its place are milder temperatures that feel warmer than a soft blanket on our wintered skin, and the smell of mud and green things growing. Every year, after winter, there is a new beginning, just as we begin to fear there will never be one. That fresh start always comes.
This is part of why Easter is such a joyous celebration. In contrast to Christmas’s gentle promise of joy to come, we get actual in-your-face joy, life and rebirth and all good things to everyone, no waiting required. It’s no coincidence that the early Christian church decided to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this time of year, instead, it's an opportunity to combine their teachings with the pagan spring and fertility festivals. The lesson of the resurrection story is about eternal life – and there is nothing more eternal than the life that April gives, after a long, cold winter.
The other part of the reason Easter is so joyous is the chocolate. A once-a-year indulgence isn’t going to hurt anyone, so I take full advantage of the availability of Russell Stover marshmallow bunnies. Cadbury Mini-Eggs used to be my seasonal treat of choice, but now they’ve made those available year-round, and frankly they’ve lost their appeal. Candy-covered chocolate eggs and potential suitors should take the same advice: sometimes it’s best to play hard to get.
All the chocolate-eating might feel at odds with the whole theme of renewal. Isn’t it difficult to feel excited about getting outdoors and feeling everything start afresh when you’re sitting inside unwrapping gold foil from a Lindt bunny? Maybe, but I think in that case we’re just in the position of Eliot’s lilacs – being bred up from the dead land, pulled from our winter complacency and forced outside into the wind and sunlight. It’s what we need right now, and we frankly ignore it at our peril. We all know what happens to the bulbs that don’t grow.
So we grow, and we change, and we say our thanks that the worst (best?) of the Easter indulgences are only available once a year.
Children are always ready to grow and change. Spring brings out the best in them. No longer tied indoors by the worst of the weather, they are outside in droves, riding bikes and scooters, playing in backyards, and coming inside with wind-reddened cheeks and muddy shoes. They respond to spring’s imperative with enthusiasm. Growth? Change? Bring it on.
We can all feel that force that drives the sap, that puts buds on the trees, that tells the birds to come home, that wakes up the insects and the bears and whispers commands to the seeds in the ground. Many of us may have learned the tendency towards complacency, towards staying inside and unwrapping that second golden rabbit.
This is another of those times you should take your lead from the kids. Maybe its something about their youth, or their stronger connection to their own instincts, but they know when it’s time to get outside and experience things again. Let them lead you. Discover Pictou County’s trails, start preparing your garden, go find some beauty spots and take in what the land looks like after the snow but before the green takes over. Spring has sprung, and it’s time.
As I’ve mentioned a time or 15, I’m originally from Newfoundland. Newfoundlanders, sometimes more than anyone, know they should welcome spring when it finally shows its face. True to form, they have a saying that perfectly sums up everything I’ve said here, and it’s this:
Go outside, and let the wind blow the stink off ya.
Susan Whistler is a local writer and co-creator of the children's book, "The Great Crow Party." She enjoys her family, walks by the ocean, and perfectly placed apostrophes. She can be found online at www.susanwhistler.com.