April is the nicest month


"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring

The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To fly--and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

- Omar Khayyám

TS Eliot said April was the "cruelest month", a sentiment one might expect from a fuddy-duddy banker spending life indoors. Was it because taxes were due? Too much time hanging out with paranoid buddy JJ Angleton?

April is in fact the nicest month, especially in Estonia. Some people endure the whole winter here and never leave. No trips to Barcelona. No jaunts to Thailand. No escapes to Sharm el Sheikh. Work, work, work. Dark, dark. dark. The sun is but a concept. An abstraction. Something one has heard about but not sure really exists. April reminds us that there is a sun and if you are lucky it can provide warmth. Warm sun. Good.

By warm, maybe 5 centigrade. There are heroic attempts at al fresco dining in Old Town underway. Finns are happy enough with this. Tourists of other nationalities perhaps less so.

The long cold days of April can prove unsettling for people from middle latitudes. For them, sunsets after 8.00 PM are associated with the height of summer. There was a songbird outside the window last night at 4.00 AM tooting a tune, capering in the snow.

April's good for stargazers. The Lyrids meteor shower is at the end of the month. It is brought by dust particles left from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. Best viewing time after midnight. Best viewing venue, anywhere without light pollution. Maybe Vormsi or Hiiumaa.

April is a warm up for the warm up of May which leads to June. If you know about baseball, it's analogous to being "in the hole". You are not up, you are not on deck, you are in the hole. Which means you get to leisurely stretch and watch the action, anticipating. If you are not in beach shape in April, it's OK. You are just warming up with two months to get ready. April's kind that way.

Frank Sinatra had April in Paris with chestnuts in blossom, referring to a riparian nut producing tree common near the Seine. For many millennia chestnuts were a staple food source throughout Europe. One can bet Frank wasn't using chestnuts for food, but was dining in the best cafes in town. The songwriter, Yip Harburg, chose blossoming chestnut trees as an actual physical description as they do indeed bloom in Paris in April but also as a metaphor for spring and its association with conjugal pleasure and fecundity.

The etymology for April is contentious. The Romans gave us Aprilis which is said to have come from the verb aperio, "to open", like the buds of said chestnuts. But some say it comes from an Etruscan form of the name for the Greek goddess Aphrodite. There are many other crackpot theories as well.

In Finnish April is called huhtikuu. This means "slash and burn" moon. It could be that the Finns are referring to their time honored agriculture lifestyle. It is possible, though, that huhtikuu is about a greater Finnish obsession, ice hockey. In the national competition SM-Liiga the playoffs kick into high gear and culminate in April. Slashing is a penalty in ice hockey and also used by the sport's ruffians on the sly.

But here in Estonia April is a byword for expectation. The pagan joys of summer are nearing. Love by moonlight on deserted beaches, farm beer, moose steaks in Pärnu, rustic pyromania.

You can see it your mind's eye. It's all there waiting. That's why April is the nicest month.


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