Friday, April 4, 2014

Ode to April Dressed in White

"Ode to April Dressed in White" is the title running through my mind for any such poetry I'm inspired to write today.

A fresh nine inches of snow coats our neighborhood. 
It comes in the wake of Tuesday snow which whitened our lawns (emerging from the deep blanket laid down over the winter). 

We were game about the April Fool’s Day snow. We  conceded it was a good joke on us. It'll melt soon the weather people said. And sure enough traces of it were soon gone.

April sun is as strong as it is in early to mid-September. The April 1 snow didn’t have a chance against it. But before the winter snow pack was fully gone from our yards it was topped with the new snowfall. 

It started last night as rain. Surfaces froze overnight, putting streets in washboard condition for the morning commute.

A friend facetiously suggested a few swear words in the poem to April. I said I could understand. The point was well taken. We’re sick of snow. It’s April after all.

With that said and out of our systems we (in the end) adjusted to the day at hand. We blew out our driveways one more time. We watched as winds shook the snow from the trees.

Fortitude has to be the defining virtue of the Midwest. Fortitude is the virtue that stands alone as the symbol of what it is to be from here. 

This comes to me as I survey the wintry scene. I can think of no virtue as critical to our survivor skills here than fortitude.

A stout heart, strong will and goodwill are our definite assets. Fortitude is what we lean into when no solid gain toward spring is made after many weeks of pecking away at winter.

In view of the snow late into our season the strength which is fortitude has its own bright light.

A sense of humor is the jolly side of fortitude. Humor probably qualifies as a separate virtue for the lift it gives as we roll with the weather punches.

Midwestern humor tends to be droll. It might be missed by those who don’t pick up on it right away. 

It’s not a ha-ha sort of humor. It is instead shrewd and observational.

It perhaps developed as a defense mechanism, a way to ease life as it tests us and plucks at our heart strings.

Although this is changing it's been ingrained in the northern culture to not show emotions too openly. Perhaps it’s this inherent caution which crafts our brand of humor.

We couch our sentiments in jests that establish pleasant contact with others while not requiring us to loosen our intrinsic reserve.

We generally reveal ourselves not all at once but slowly over time. Humor is a door with the key in the lock. Keys are for opening. They also can keep something shut.

“Know me through my humor and you’ll come to know me in other ways” might be the first truth anyone new over our borders would be well to put their thoughts around.

It reminds me of the old days, as the past is recounted, when male customers with free time idled away winter hours in the relative comfort of the country store.

In these rural areas it was the farm customers who had some spare time in winter. Harvest was over. Their lives were less ordered. They were less in a hurry. 

They could visit and rag each other. Until fields dried in the spring for planting they could sometimes indulge in a bit of relaxation.

They leaned back in chairs or stood chatting at leisure as grocery orders were filled. They swapped stories, heard (and spread) the local gossip, opined on matters, solved the world's problems and joshed. 

The store was blue with smoke curling from pipes and the endless lighting of cigarettes. It was a man’s haven, well earned in an age of hard physical labor. 

They went home refreshed. There was important interaction from their time shared. It was a place to rest  and a chance to throw their voices into the mix.

Winter treats us similarly through the years. Winter also got long for the farmers. They used the country store to use up winter. The itch came upon them to sit awhile and jaw and let the season have its time.

And they grew restless by April as we do now. Like us, they yearned to be active outside and separate from households pent in by winter's long nights and cold weather. 

They waited to come back to life as April puts it in all of us to do.

I was reminded of this by a fellow passenger. We were on the elevator. It was hauling us to different destinations on the same floor. 

The day was deplorable. We remarked on it in polite conversational exchange on the short ride up.

“Minnesota is eleven months winter and one month tough sledding" is what I remember him saying. 

He may have worded it a bit differently but it sounds about right. I chuckled when he said this.

It's how we joke here, and how we handle miserable springtimes when they arrive tardy or recalcitrant.

Especially those of this older man’s generation know how to take the seasonal cycles in stride. They’ve lived through harsh winters, easy winters and certainly through winters as difficult as 2013-14 has been.

I tell my helpful friend there'll be no swear words in the ode to April. The poetry will be in the grace of how we meet the unwelcome setback that has been April so far.

April this year, paraphrasing my friend of the elevator, wants to be among the eleven months of winter. 

So let it be. We’ll work around it and get through it as has always been done here. And I expect a break is coming soon. Warmer days are ahead.

I pick up the pen, cross out a few words, add others. Here's being ready for the next poem. 

"Ode to April Dressed in Green" is a title set to go. It only needs the context - nature's elements to inspire - to take the words to paper and make it poetry.

Ro Giencke – April 4, 2014

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