April is a difficult month in northeastern US. By difficult, I mean it’s annoying and at the same time promising. Promising because it marks the end of winter’s discomforts. Yet real comfort and signs of new growth remain elusive.
The landscape into which we dreamily gaze in anticipation of that relief is not only colorless. It’s drab and hazy and lifeless. At least winter gave us crisp, clear air, and the radiant contrast of sparkling, white snow and naked, black trees that frame a magnificent eagle gliding through the river valley. Our shy red cardinals are easy to spot in winter too. And the ice! Sheets of ice cling in giant curtains over rock hillsides and rows of glass icicles hang from roofs outside our windows.
Now, with ice and snow melting away, fields are littered with broken branches and other winter detritus. New York City streets not yet rain-washed, stink terribly from the droppings of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers’ pet dogs. Pieces of discarded city life, hidden under snow for months now lie exposed, soggy, and undecipherable.
But warmer days assure us winter is ending (if not ended). Taking the air temperature as our cue, we have our cars washed of months of accumulated mud and salt; we enthusiastically pack away woolens and boots and optimistically pull off plastic insulation from windows. We let our shoulders relax and open our necks to the wind and lift our faces to speak real words to our neighbors who during winter only got a nod from behind our knit-wrapped heads.
Then the thaw ends. Temperatures plummet and we awaken to four inches of spring snow. Puddles of water and mud in driveways and streets freeze, so that stepping on this tender snow-cover becomes particularly hazardous.
We search the landscape for color. That corner patch of earth catching some midday sun? Alas, a budding crocus. (Perhaps an early daffodil.) I recognize emerging green leaves that might release a blossom tomorrow.
Newly arrived birds bring color too:–blue of blue jays, red of robin, and rust of merganser ducks. With these flecks of color we become more assured that spring’s really here. Our confidence grows when we detect new smells:– the unmistakable aroma of healthy, rotting earth, tree bark falling away to release the odors of new growth. I inhale deeply.
Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. She was a longtime radio host and producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org and contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.