It’s been a long winter for those of us in the Upper Midwest. I won’t bother with the statistics, just let the word long stand. Snow and ice and winds and below-zero temperatures. Broken pipes, crunched cars, middle-of-the-night furnace emergencies. Our two small dogs beg to go outside then stand, bewildered, holding up one paw, then another.
Last summer my partner and I landscaped the yard of our rented house. (An odd thing to do, I know, but we had lots of yard and few plantings and isn’t all space, ultimately, only rented?) We put in trees and bushes, grasses and prairie flowers, wild strawberries and violets and lily of the valley. We wanted to create a respite for ourselves and for all the creatures we love to watch from our windows or from the front stoop. And, of course, the beloved creatures flocked to this new haven and turned our tender plants into breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What sweet fools we are!
And so we put up fences, spread natural repellents, and lured the hungry with other fare.
They gobbled our offerings and our new plantings, too. Fools. Fools.
We put protective wrappings around the saplings, and then winter came and the snow piled past the protectors, and the rabbits simply hopped on up to munch higher on the tender bark.
Is there such a thing as a January fool?
We put up more fencing. The snow piled higher.
The fellow who plows the driveway very considerately came back one day to clear the huge piles that had built up on each side of the entrance. Only he pushed the snow up to the backyard fence and then over it into the yard in a great mound so that Dawn, my ruby cavalier, could climb right up to the fence corner and on over to the other side. (She is stone deaf, so there is no way to call her back unless she happens to notice the person running barefoot across the snowy yard, signaling wildly.)
March fools, too.
For April fool I have to move into conjecture, because I’m writing this before April has arrived. But having lived in Minnesota for more than forty years, conjecture isn’t hard. There will be a huge dump of wet snow, clinging gloriously to every branch and street sign and shrub. Or freezing rain, perhaps, bedecking the world in crystal and turning the streets into disaster. There will be melting snow, dirty and used up and running everywhere, and mud will squelch and cling.
Then there will be another freeze.
But a fellow in a red feathered suit will call, “Took, took!” and his sweetheart in her lovely olive dress will promise “Chip, chip, chip!”
And we will all be fooled, if only for a moment, into thinking that love alone will feed us.
But the fool I’m waiting to be isn’t April’s. It is the one I’ll become as our Minnesota May arrives. The perfume of damp earth, released from its winter confinement. Blossoms on new crabapple trees . . . redbud, pagoda dogwood, deep blue lilac. Every shoot, the unfurling of each tiny petal, even the children blooming on the sidewalks . . . all will flower in my brain as the most blessed foolishness.
I have been thinking about death lately, about the death of stars that brings us planets, about the death of dinosaurs that made room for humans, about the death of elders that allows the gift of children.
I have been thinking about death and watching beyond my study windows the way the sun glints off snow and how tree shadows turn blue as evening approaches. And thinking about death and snow and sunshine brings me, inevitably, to spring.
To being an April fool, a May fool, an anytime fool.
In love with this precious life.