The cruellest month? Seriously?

18 April, 2012        The Cruellest Month? Seriously?

Another title for this post could be “a little knowledge is dangerous.” I’ve dabbled in English enough to know the line “April is the cruellest month.” But I had to resort to wikipedia to learn it is the opening line to T.S. Eliot’s enormous 1922 poem The Waste Land. Further investigation reveals the final (434th!) line is “Shantih    shantih    shantih,“ Sanskrit for, if you will, “peace, peace, peace.” An April image from my backyard:

That’s a white lilac; the purple ones (more conventionally lilac colored, equally fragrant) finished before I got a picture. Leading to another April poem known to a person with a little knowledge of English: Walt Whitman’s 1865 When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, his elegy after Lincoln’s assassination. Maybe then it was the cruelest month. But aren’t those lilacs stunning? You should smell them. Wow. It would be the cruelest month if it literally took your breath away.

Speaking of “a little knowledge,” I’ve put a caption on each picture. And whenever I save it, the caption disappears. By the next post I’ll have a little more knowledge and the captions will work. Stay tuned. Please! While I’m in this conversational tone, please put a comment at the end of the post (should you be so inclined) and give me a little feedback. I love to hear from readers. I hope I’m correct using the plural there!

The river’s staying high. Mid-river rock real estate is valuable. Just like valuable human real estate, it gets crowded. Location, location, location:

A crowd of cormorants.

Tons of turtles.

If you were in Richmond this fine Spring, you noticed that inchworms are not choosy about location; a muddy hand holding dog leashes is as fine as a country estate:

For me in this “cruel” month, the plant life steals the show, and not just the lilacs. Rosa multiflora is one I love each spring. The smell is not as powerful as a lilac, but it’s gentle and delicious and the flowers are wonderful:

When we were young (when my two brothers and two sisters and I were younger than we are now) we attended and worked at Camp Waredaca in Gaithersburg, MD for years and years. I think starting in the early seventies and continuing for so many years. We still go there often, although it’s a little different these days. We swam in a big lake and we’d walk down there barefoot and I’d often get clover stuck between my toes:

Some of these pictures are almost too close up; it almost makes them unrecognizable. But we all know what a dandelion and a clover and a buttercup look like, and these closeups are kind of fun:

Except for the lilac at the top, all the pictures on this post were taken at Pony Pasture. Including this old friend I found in the woods; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen ironwood:

I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve read it’s the only wood that sinks in water. It makes  axes and saws very dull very quickly. All you have to do is put your hand on it and it’s easy to feel how dense it is. I also read they burned it in the  old days and used the charcoal to make gunpowder. Carbon being the element that makes gunpowder black or gray.

I’ve got a ton of images piled up since it’s been about three weeks since I last put up a post. Thursday, April 5 was the 24th anniversary of my accident, a milestone I’m always grateful to reach. I plan to see a minimum of 24 more anniversaries and if I’m careful and fortunate, 24 more after that. But right now I’ll just see if I can make it through the next 24 hours! I hope yours is great too. Have a terrific day,


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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11 Responses to The cruellest month? Seriously?

  1. clare says:

    great pros & “toes” (photos). i felt like over the past couple of weeks that i emerged from the woods looking like rip van winkle with a beard of webbed inch worms blowing off my face 🙂 LOL

    haven’t run into the clan down at pony pasture lately, but my elder cat, Boo, passed away last week – had a large tumor in his abdomen…..of course he is missed, but it always amazes me the huge disconnect that happens amongst all the animals when one of them leaves…..

    hope you guys had a good easter too

    thank you for your river stories.

    clare, zoe, stella, lil fur & bobby

    • Hi Clare!
      I know anyone who hiked at all at PP this Spring has gotten decorated by the inchworms. The birds must be getting stuffed! Sorry to hear about Boo. It is remarkable the ripples that sort of thing sends through our animal families. But they move on. Looking forward to seeing you at the river soon! Have a great day,


  2. Grace says:

    Enjoyed the humor in your post today. One question: did you really read The Waste Land in it’s entirety or just skip to the end? Clover in the toes–boy, does that bring back childhood memories. Nothing better than running barefoot outside in the summer (except for maybe homegrown tomatoes). Thanks for the smile!

  3. Hi Grace,
    Glad you enjoyed the post. And no, I didn’t read all of The Waste Land or even skip to the end. Like a true slacker, I googled “cruelest month” and it sent me to wikipedia (what a surprise) where I read: “Among its famous phrases are “April is the cruellest month” (its first line); “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”; and (its last line) the mantra in the Sanskrit language “Shantih shantih shantih.”” 434 lines. Oy. And that clover in the toes, as soon as I looked at it I could feel it, it was like I was barefoot. Strong, strong memory.

    Anyway, have a great day, take it easy,


  4. Martha Ann says:

    Your photos are gorgeous!

    • Hi Martha Ann!
      Glad you enjoyed them. Everything’s so beautiful down there it’s difficult to take a bad photo! I wish I could go more often. Thanks for the comment and have a great day,


  5. evzakyoga says:

    April 2012 has been memorable in many respects, some cruel and some not. This post is a great combo of erudition, loveliness and humor. Just right. That buttercup has a totally in-your-face look – quite unbuttercuppy. And the clover! So sweet. And a bale of turtles! Just what I needed, thanks for posting, as always, xo

    • Thanks Evelyn,
      Glad you enjoyed it. After I put up this post with the picture of the buttercup on it, I held my chin up to the monitor. It reflected yellow, which means I like butter. And I really do! Isn’t science amazing? The clover was also a neat Spring find, it was on the edge of the old Pony Pasture itself, probably a remnant of the days when it was an actual pasture. It’s such a cheerful little plant. Good looking turtles too. Those cormorants were perhaps a little thuggish looking. I think if a fish looked up and saw that crowd it would head for deeper water fast. Have a great day, xo,


  6. Jim Teacher says:

    Cormorants are smug.

    • Jim! Great to hear from you! It’s been forever! Little known fact here, were you aware that many Eskimos keep cormorants as pets? Perhaps you were able to intuit that. About Inuits. Keep teaching! Have a great day,


  7. Pingback: PP Flora | NEWFAZE

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