April is the time of year when many Adirondackers are up in the air about what to do. Not in the everyday sense like going to work, preparing dinner or getting the oil changed in the car, but in a more global view of what we can do with our time.
Skiing is still okay in some places, but it's not wonderful. Ice fishing is sketchy, since our ponds and lakes have a melting cover, and accidents can and do happen. Canoeists and kayakers are primed, but except for extremists, it's not quite time to head to open waters. Some hiking is possible, with poles and treads for your boots, but slips and slides are not fun on icy and snowy patches in the woods.
I've seen a few bicycles out, and my neighbor got his motorcycle started, tuning up for upcoming travels. Snowmobiles have inconsistent and undependable conditions over their trails and roadways. Runners are bursting to get out for some nice mileage, but with really cold wind and often spitting snow, their inspiration sometimes lags.
On top of all this, most of our restaurants are closed in April. And kids have spring break. And often, we feel trapped.
What to do
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
So what to do? My first thought is spring cleaning. It's always a good idea this time of year. Of course this does not sound like fun, nor is it particularly athletic or full of fresh air and sunshine. But it can be therapeutic for those looking for ideas of what to do with a cold April afternoon. When one cleans windows, more light comes to your life. When one purges excess clothing from closets, more surface, more organization, comes to your inner spaces, and others could end up with some great new-to-them clothes.
When you prune and feed your houseplants, or start seedlings for your garden, you acknowledge that living flora is a part of our world, soon to become a major part, once the snow is gone. A major vacuuming job removes the dust from a closed-in winter of wood fires and dry heat, especially if you keep the windows open a bit to recirculate fresh air while you're doing it. And when you're done, you feel renewed - not a bad gift to give yourself at this time of year.
National Poetry Month
Another idea is tougher to sell, but I always try. During the month of April, writers and teachers acknowledge National Poetry Month. I say, to all who are not aware of modern poetry, try to read a poem once or twice during the month of April. Find an old text book on your bookshelf, one that may be gathering dust, and open its pages to a poem. Or go to a web site like poets.org to get a poem a day sent to your email account, just for a month see if something shows up there that intrigues you. There are dozens of events listed at the website, and access to thousands of poems, in case there's one you remember but can't get your hands on.
Poetry does not work for some people, and for others, it is a tedious thing. But I argue that each of us has a bit of the poet in him or her. When we were children, we spoke poetically, because that is how children learn, what things remind them of what things, what colors taste like, what they imagine a bird feels like flying ... so many things are colorful, full of texture, full of metaphor for a child. And in April, I invite people to keep an open mind about the world of poetry, remember the fancifulness of childhood, and let someone's words come to you in a poem. There are poetry readings in the area this month. Why not give one a try?
Get out of Dodge
Another idea for this month of wondering what to do is to go somewhere else. I know it's not easy for people to just pick up and leave their homes, but with a little foresight, a side trip to Lake Champlain or Lake Ontario or Montreal is possible. Some place unlike our forests and rivers, some place a little further downhill and more likely to be sporting their daffodils, that's the idea. Other places do not close down their restaurants in the month of April. So go to them.
The bottom line is that we ought to keep our eyes and ears open this time of year. We may be feeling trapped, but there are methods to unlock the closed-in feeling. There are a million birds migrating right now, and many are showing their faces at our feeders and in our treetops. Animals that have been sleeping the winter away are showing their faces I spied an ermine, a chipmunk, and some bear scat in the past two days. You have to go out into the world in order to see this shift in fauna activity but when you do, it's worth the discoveries you will find.
So enjoy April's gifts, and don't let the frustrations bog you down. Enjoy the first warm-enough sunny afternoons, the gentle rains, and the disappearing snows. Smell the earthy smell of musk in the damp forest undergrowth, and feel connected to all that will ensue as real spring makes its face seen around our mountain homes.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.