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Michael Perry: Just when we emerge from the shell, the cruelty of April reveals itself

Michael Perry: Just when we emerge from the shell, the cruelty of April reveals itself

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Few snowflakes are crueler than the April snowflake. As it flittered past the teensy leaves of the apple tree this morning, it whispered, “Yah, not so fast there.”

I write this in a week of uncertainty, as if certainty were ever anything but a blind privilege.

Snow in April is the least of it. I find myself grateful for the trash needing taking out, the chicken coop needing to be moved, the dirt-kicking simplicity of shooting the breeze with a logger, which I did earlier this week.

I can hear his chainsaw now. He knocks off earlier than I do, but if I did what he does I would tip over by noon. When I introduced myself I broke the ice by telling him I was apprenticed to and related to loggers but — and then I showed him my hands — was no longer in the business.

This got a big laugh, and gave us a place to start.

I am ever hopeful about the human condition, and equally despairing. Who knows the headlines surrounding this text right now. They flip over like arrival and departure times in a helter-skelter subway terminal.

This, I think, is why we resent that April snowflake. It was sunny, it was warm, and wham, the weather turned. Doesn’t matter if we saw it coming; we’re still not happy it’s here.

I have lately made it my assignment to wrench my introverted hinder out of the writing chair and make conversation with the neighbors, including a few I’ve not met before.

This is no sacrifice but it is unnatural, as my favorite place in the world is in a tiny room all alone, and when it comes to basic social skills I ramble like a flat-footed clogger on a bender minus any sense of rhythm.

I avoid human contact for days on end, then I encounter a fellow person and the words babble forth in a river of jabber. More than once I have apologized for this, but probably not often enough.

I often see a look of light bewilderment in my conversation partner’s eyes, reflecting not so much a desire to escape as amazement at the amount of oxygen I’m burning in a straight line.

But eventually I hear myself and shut up. And then the neighbor talks. And then an hour is gone and we do the mossy old joke about not solving the world’s problems, but in fact we have made incremental progress on one of the world’s problems, because the undercurrent here is my neighbors and I do not see all things in this world the same but here we are talking, not posting.

And if we talk long enough — if we persist through my babble — we brush up against these things. The logger and I covered some ground in this regard. Neither yielded, but we still wave at each other of a morning, and can’t help but perceive of each other as human.

The flake I spotted today melted as soon as it hit the ground. No accumulation is predicted. But it was the emotional equivalent of a wet burdock burr down my boot.

In moments like these, one must get a grip, and focus on the positives. I know that’s what I’m reaching for here today.

Not 10 feet from where that snowflake melted a tulip is rising. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a tulip.

We want to hope. Even as we brace for what may come. For those snowflakes in May.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio” ( Read more from Michael Perry at

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