March is always a bit grim, I think, the sort of month you have to white-knuckle your way through. There are those sharp, unforgiving dips in temperature just when you think it’s safe to sit in the sun. Daffodils peek out shyly only to be blasted back into their green cloaks by a cruel frost. Boots and scarves, put aside in a moment of reckless optimism, are hastily retrieved. What were we thinking? We weren’t. We were hoping. March teaches you to be wary of expecting too much. If you can content yourself with peeks of sunshine and spare minutes of warmth, you can get on quite happily.
But April! April in my part of the world teaches you to unfurl. It’s the time to change from socks and boots to loafers and deck shoes, still too cool to uncover the toes, but the ankles get to breathe a little. Necks emerge from woolly mufflers; wrists are no longer captive in cuffs. Everything begins to shift and buzz and stretch in April. I’ve already seen rabbits nibbling the clover in our yard; the first butterflies have emerged, and a very fat bumblebee in a dapper striped waistcoat paid me a call the other day. Azaleas and dogwoods are in full bloom here, and the peonies have put out their leaves. The oaks are sporting different embellishments depending on their age. The younger, shorter fellows are already waving new leaves, no bigger than my thumb, while the oldest, most stalwart oaks–and we have a few that predate the Civil War–are still sleeping peacefully.
This is a season that demands its own book, and you cannot do better than the most obvious choice: THE ENCHANTED APRIL. Elizabeth von Arnim’s classic was written in 1922 but feels perfectly fresh and relevant. It details the blissful month when a quartet of strangers decide to leave their respective lives in England for a few stolen weeks in an Italian castle by the sea. Every woman can relate to wanting an escape from doing for others for just a little while, can’t she? And to escape to such a dazzling place! THE ENCHANTED APRIL makes clear the cost of always putting yourself last in your list of priorities. It, daringly for its time, is unapologetically certain that doing so is a sure route to misery and that a little dissipation is a good thing. Can’t get away to a castle of your own? Unplug the phone, draw a bath or set up a chair in the shade of a budding tree, and claim this one for yourself.