The Cruelest Month

T.S. Elliot hit the nail on that one. April teases us with warm breezes, climbing temperatures, pretty pink and yellow blossoms, tenderly greening trees–then slaps us silly with frosts and sudden plunges into winter.

Not sure what it says about me that I still love April. It holds out its sweet green hand, then yanks it away and blows cold white. You can just hear the snicker.

And still, it’s the promise, the knowing May’s coming. It’s looking out my dining room window–even though I have a fire going–and seeing my cherry trees brilliantly blooming.

pink tree

On Monday afternoon, I walked around with my two oldest grandchildren, all of us in tee-shirts, checking out the blooms and buds. Today I put on boots, a sweatshirt, my warmest hoodie, a scarf, and was still cold as BW and I went to the nursery. It’s yet to hit 50 today.


While I loaded up carts with plants that will make me incredibly happy, I chatted with a couple who told me they drove through snow to get there. They’re only a half hour north, and had snow. That’s pretty damn cruel.

truck of flowers

I can’t plant yet–who wants to garden when it’s 48 degrees anyway? It kills me, I admit, it kills me not to get out there and play. But I have a truckload of gorgeous plants that will, eventually, fill my beds, my pots with color and scent. I’ll enjoy every minute of digging in the dirt–when it doesn’t freeze my fingers off.

Since it’s my oldest grandson’s birthday (yesterday officially) he’s having a swim party here this afternoon (indoor pool, best thing I ever did), so the house will be full of happy–and a big-ass Call Of Duty cake, at his request.

As I can’t garden today, I think I’ll bake bread. I might as well make soup while I’m at it. They’re calling for a drop to 32 degrees tonight. But maybe tomorrow, if April decides to be kind, it’ll be warm enough to dig.

If not, well, May’s coming. And spring better be ready to bust out all over.


24 thoughts on “The Cruelest Month”

  1. Love this column, right fron Elliott’s wonderful quote through the comments on grandkids, cooking, and gardening (twitching and jumping here). I need a greenhouse, my kingdom for a GREENHOUSE!! The cats eat my seedlings.

    However, your column brightened my day–cold and overcast though it is– and made me smile. As the old saying goes, you’re not getting older, you’re getting better, Nora. Thank you for taking us along on the journey.


  2. I love all your books and have for many years. I’m currently reading The Liar and think it’s fantastic. This is the second blog of yours I read and it makes me like our New Jersey weather more. Thank you Nora!

  3. You captured it for me perfectly!! My house is full of plants I can’t set out and my stove is running. And as I am in Maine – I will have a longer wait for spring. Tomorrow will be 4 degrees warmer – how pathetic is it that I can’t wait. 🙂

  4. Wow! The nursery probably LOVES to see you coming!! This morning I attended a Fairy Cottage Workshop with a friend at Surreybrooke Nursery. What a great way to spend a Saturday morning. I too am “itching” to do some “real” gardening, but have been content cleaning up beds, and putting out a few pansies and primroses. Enjoy your truckload of treasures!

  5. I am in NC. It was cold and rainy this morning (50s), but I am just tired of waiting. My tomato plants, cucs, zucchini, and a couple other things went into the vegetable garden. I finished in the rain. But I feel so good now. 🙂

  6. I’m about 75 miles Northeast of you and we have tulips up ! Daffodils are still fine as are flowering pear, redbud , the weeping cherry are finished and we check the 45 year old magnolia every morning, it often gets frost bitten. Love hearing about your garden. By the way “The Liar” was fun ! Love your strong heroine, hero relationships, nobody does it better than you !

  7. Here’s hoping that you will finally get warmer weather and be able to dig into the warm earth and plant the beautiful flowers you bought. Thanks for the pics and the blog.

  8. Love knowing that your weather isn’t that much off from central West Michigan’s. I was wearing shorts & tank tops 2 weeks ago and then last week, I ended up digging my gloves out of the drawer. Today is cool, but my lawn clean-up is finished. Like you, Nora, I yearn to be able to play in the dirt. We have veggies (various types of beans) started from seed that have grown it seems overnight from the protection of the grow-light in the basement. My perennial herbs are awake outside, and my veggie garden is drawn up on paper (seeds have been ordered & received from Annie’s Seeds, a wonderful company right here in Michigan). I’m also baking bread today (apple pie bread), so I guess we think alike. Blessings on all you lovers of the dirt.–Joanne

  9. Happy birthday Logan.

    Sadly its too early for a trip to our plant center but I have mentioned to the dh that time is near for that trip. We are four hours northwest of you in SW PA in Pgh so we need another week or so to get the best weather for planting.

  10. We were away for over 3 weeks. This was the time that everything started growing and the weeds just overtook everything! I have huge indian hawthorne bushes in front of my house. The grass grew up through the stones and the bushes and the entire front is such a mess. Normally we can control it by weeding just about everyday in the spring. But being away, it just took over. We got a landscaper come in today and told us that deer love indian hawthorne and will eat just enough to keep bushes growing so they can continue to come back and munch! So we are taking them all out, cleaning out the stones and putting new ground cover material down (the thickest one they sell) and having all new plants and new bushes planted. Everything will be what the deer DON’T eat! Last night I looked out the dining room window and there were 5 deers munching and crunching! Ha! Your flowers look great…have fun planting them!

  11. I love all the colors you picked to plant. Here in Ohio, we have been bouncing back and forth between high 60’s to low 40’s. We just moved to a new house and the yard needs a ton of work. I can’t wait to get to it. By the way, loved The Liar.

  12. April is playing it’s dirty little tricks here in Germany too! Can’t wait for May! I just finished reading Whiskey Beach and I am half way through The Liar! Love ALL your books! My favorite ones are the supernatural stories ànd Irish stories. They keep me warmer in the winter and add more sunshine to my summer! Thank you!

  13. We have raised gardens here at the building where I live, but I always have to promise not to tough — I was born with really black thumbs — I can kill anything while attempting to follow the directions. So I live without and enjoy the fruits of others’ labors.
    I loved the Liar very much — your heroine was strong and right and a favorite. So I want to thank you for her — she is a now day Eve type who is more on the maternal side of female

  14. Which came first, your indoor pool or Roarke’s? Either way, what a great exercise tool for us Northerners.

    Here in Colorado, rule of thumb dictates anything put out before Mother’s Day is just begging for destruction and Memorial Day is almost safe. I’ve pots and seedlings everywhere, waiting for the warmth. I do have lettuce starting to show after seeding my standing garden box. Only a rabbit with wings could get to it. If the temp dips like expected tomorrow, I’ll have to put the burlap over it again. Springtime in the Rockies!

  15. Looks like you had a great day at the garden center, despite the chilly weather. Thanks to arthritis and heavy clay soil I have decided to limit my gardening to huge pots with lots of mixed plants. I can sit on a bench and play to my hearts content without getting up and down. It was also damp and chilly here in southern Delaware and I am still feeling the chill after being home for four hours. Liar is next on my reading list but I am hoping to re-visit the Boonsboro series first as it will be so much more fun to read them after visiting there and spending a night at InnBoonsboro last spring. Yikes! Where did the last year go? I planned to read them again months ago. I guess I must have been a little busy. Happy gardening!!

  16. My sweet cat, Eme, had her 3rd b-day this month; then sadly, got very sick and died. She had such a colorful personality which included eating my plants and flowers, so I never bought any. Today, I too purchased plants and flowers. Just wait, It’s going to be a beautiful Spring!

  17. I love Nora’s interpretation of TS Eliot. I love her enthusiasm for gardening and grandchildren. I certainly share those.
    I always interpreted Eliot’s “April s the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land” as his analogy for winter as a dead time of depression and shut down feelings. April, with its awakening to spring buds, stirs us to hope again. It is painful to awake to feelings. Then we will inevitably be vulnerable to crushed desires. Nora’s sees it in a sweeter light!

  18. We have had spring for well over a month here in the San Juan Islands area of Puget Sound. Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Tulips, flowering Trees everywhere – absolutely gorgeous! We bundle up in polar fleece & hats with our patio heaters to watch the beautiful sunsets as we live right on the water’s edge. I love reading Nora’s posts and her celebrations like the spa week, gatherings with family & outings in her passion for all things nature. Enjoying the Liar immensely each evening! Thank you Nora!! Kathryn

  19. If you’re saying your grandson’s birthday is the 24th, he and I have the same birthday but many many years apart. Cool. i agree with you about what April is like. My complaint doesn’t have to do with planting but with the fact that I don’t like to wear shoes. I wear my sandals in the warm weather. Then I get a little cranky when I have to go back to wearing my shoes. Fortunately it sounds as if the whole next week will be warm enough to wear my sandals.

  20. We are more than a month behind in our climate/temperatures in general and I have said to my husband several times, that I expect there will be some snow still on the ground in June, even if only in the woods. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve got a $20 on it. But I did see the tulips trying hard to come up out of that cold, hard ground. So that means, spring is here, even if we just can’t feel it yet. My five grandkids came over for a visit on Saturday, and though I’m still in post-op status, it was wonderful to hear the sounds of laughter and craziness all around me. Warmed me right up!!!

  21. I am from Durban, South Africa so we’re are currently experiencing “Autumn”. I am one lucky person as I live 30kms from the coast and 2 1/2 hours from the mountains. We do have snow on the Drakensberg but realky nothing like you experience. This means that I don’t experience the definite season changes and have green and flowers year round. It really is a beautiful part of the workd to live in too. Soo looking forward to reading “The Liar” – just have to be patient…

  22. Oh, how I wish I were there! I live in sunny California, where we are currently experiencing a drought. Government officials are stepping in, and even farmers are being watched on their watering. Cannot really garden here now. People are only allowed to water their yards twice a week.

  23. Since my first post to your “Cruelest month” post, I have read THE LIAR. I am reading it again, already, savouring it. There is so much dimension to this novel, Nora, story within story within story. The poet in you, always there, has been growing stronger in your recent novels, the Dark Witch trilogy and this one. It shows in the love of the Smokies especially, something I see in Dolly Parton’s songs and Maggie Anderson of Kent, Ohio’s poetry. (Look up her poem “Long Story.” Echoes.) The ways of the South and attitudes of outsiders ring so true. The love of family flavors and warms the whole story and Shelby’s struggle with things we all struggle with on a lesser scale is empowering. Nora, I have so many of your books annd each new one seems to become my favorite. Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful read!

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