April, as poet T.S. Eliot pointed out, is the cruelest month.

For those of you in the group who aren’t English majors, his point was that its new growth and beauty are a tease, promising rebirth when we’re really just going to be led back into the same cycle of misery and death.

Yeah, I know. Depressing.

But is his metaphor for the futility of life as depressing as early April in central Maine? It’s cruel here for a whole different reason.

Give us that fake rebirth stuff, because it has to be better than cold wind, 2 feet of snow still on the ground and none of the “lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire” that Eliot writes about in “The Waste Land.”

Lilacs? Heck, at this point we’d just be happy with the dead land.


That said, there are signs, two weeks after the alleged first day of spring, that it will eventually arrive. Not all of them are pretty, but then, remember, cruelest month.

Here are the top 10:

10. The snow is really gross. While most of the ground is still snow-covered, the snow is melting. And it’s disgusting. Gone is the Currier & Ives pristine white blanket. In its place is gray, black, brown scuzz.

9. The aroma of dog doo is in the air. With no thaw, we’ve got four or five months’ worth all softening up at once. Forget lilacs and apple blossoms; no odor evokes spring so much.

8. I can almost see the lawn chair in my backyard. At the height of winter, it was buried. The first day of spring, the back of it was visible. Wednesday, the first day of April, the armrests had emerged. By June, I may be able to sit in it.

7. The roads are not drivable. Why does everyone’s back hurt? Bombing along Route 11 in North Belgrade, or whatever your favorite local bombing along choice may be, at 50 mph, that’s why. Frost heaves, potholes — bring ’em. It’s all part of the adventure.


6. Mud mud mud. For months those of you who sweep and vacuum have been sweeping and vacuuming salt and sand. Notice in the past week or so it’s changed to dried mud? It may not seem like it, but that’s progress.

5. The Bard, baby. We’re back to the English major stuff. For those of you unaware, Shakespeare’s birthday is April 23. He was born 451 years ago, and for the second year in a row the Recycled Shakespeare Company plans a daylong Waterville celebration, the troupe announced Wednesday. A parade will be followed by daylong reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets and songs. It’s three weeks away.

By then, it might even feel like April, or as the Bard put it, “when proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim hath put a spirit of youth in every thing.”

4. High school spring sports, speaking of the spirit of youth. Throw open the gym doors! Plow the tennis courts! The terrain may not say spring yet, but the sports calendar waits for no boy or girl. High schools began their spring practices this week and the kids will make the best of it.

3. Ice out. It’s not here, but people are beginning to talk about it. When the lakes start to melt, it really does mean it’s getting warmer out, right?

2. This column. I vowed that I wouldn’t write about the weather all winter long. We got a lot of snow and it was cold out and a lot of people wrote about it, so I figured I didn’t have to. So if I’m writing about the weather, the snow must be going away.

1. The cutters coming up the Kennebec. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, or the warblers to your birdfeeder, or even the bears to your birdfeeder, the cutters coming up the Kennebec are one of the joyful harbingers of the season.

When those majestic boats slowly churn up the river, breaking and plowing the ice, it almost feels like they’re on their way to rescue us from winter.

Maureen Milliken is news editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at mmilliken@centralmaine.com. Twitter: mmilliken47. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month.

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