April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
It’s still cold and gray here in the steppe country of eastern Idaho. Snow still covers the yard. Snow is still in the immediate forecast. Winter’s not done yet. Not even close.
It’s March. And March, to counter T.S. Elliot’s depressing opening stanza of “The Waste Land,” is really the cruelest month. Come April, we’ll get a reprieve. Yeah, we’ll still get snow. It’ll still be cold, sometimes miserably so. But April, at the very least, offers hope.
But March? No. March is brutal. March is hopeless.
And that hopelessness takes its toll. Call it the winter blues or cabin fever … experts call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. For me … I just call it envy.
It might be my worst vice, particularly this time of year. This is when I turn my attention east to Appalachia, where, for my friends living in the Southeast, March is a month of potential and, often, about realizing it. If they squint really hard among the sweet gums and the water oaks of the bottom lands, they can see a tinge of green. The sun is warmer. The skies are bluer. The dogwoods and the redbuds are about to burst. The brookies are already looking up.
For those folks, April might be ideal. Hell, they can wet-wade in April.
Maybe by April, I’ll be able to walk and wade the lower Henry’s Fork without having to post-hole my way to the river through thigh-deep snow. Maybe.
But back East, where the snow is probably gone for the year and the Appalachians are basking under the spring sun, it’s on. On warm days, wild and native brook trout will happily charge a high-floating indicator dry. Water levels are good. Temperatures are ideal. It’s a place where spring really does happen.
And I want in on it. In a few weeks, I might just make it happen — nothing like a little cross-country jaunt, camper in tow, to shake off the Rocky Mountain winter with a dose of chicken-fried fishing where the grass is already green and, I suspect, where a few air conditioners might kick on here pretty quick.
It doesn’t help, of course, to be living during the era of COVID, when getting out there requires more thought and planning than might otherwise be necessary. And a cross-country trip, of course, would be an exercise in forced self-isolation.
But, like I said. It’s March. The month of envy. The cruelest month.