Shawnee News-Star Article April 1 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg So, the Pope decreed this year since April Fool's Day falls on Easter, it will not be observed.   He proclaimed two April Fool's Days will be held in 2019. April Fools! Should I say Happy Easter or April Fool's Day?  Both days originated hundreds of years […]

Shawnee News-Star Article April 1 2018

Sunrise at the beach

Becky Emerson Carlberg

So, the Pope decreed this year since April Fool's Day falls on Easter, it will not be observed.   He proclaimed two April Fool's Days will be held in 2019.

April Fools!

Should I say Happy Easter or April Fool's Day?  Both days originated hundreds of years rooted deep in history.  In Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' (written in 1392) was a fable about a cocky rooster being tricked by a sly fox on April first.   This story led to April 1st being the day of practical jokes.   In France April 1st is called April Fish.   Paper fish are secretly attached to people's backs.

At Eastertime, the equinoxes and solstices represented the strong influences of nature in communities well before Christianity.   People believed in deities of nature.   One example is the fertility goddess.   Wherever pagans lived, rabbits, eggs, chicks and plants waking up from winter were looked upon as signs of spring and the world regenerating and surging once again into life.   Christianity put a name to that lifeforce and added a compelling story that also took place at the same time.

Spring is a vibrant time that arrives with hope for the future.   This past week I have been in Maryland.   It has been bitterly cold with snow still on the ground in places from the last Nor'easter that dumped twelve inches of snow just before I came.   A snow flurry surprised us early in the week.

Pony with Attitude

In the spirit of spring, we loaded up and drove to the beach for a few days.   There it was not only cold but windy.   What better time to have a picnic.   Assateague Island National Seashore offers miles of shoreline and groupings of picnic tables, restrooms and changing rooms for the summer swim crowd.   At one spot the picnic tables by sand dunes were flanked by an RV on one side and tent at the other, with the visitors watching the island ponies. These 300 wild ponies have lived on this barrier island since the 1600's.   Signs are posted everywhere telling people to keep a bus length distance between them and the little horsies.   They can bite and kick.   We figured no problem and found a table some distance away from all the activity and somewhat protected from the brisk strong wind.   Apparently some of these ponies have grown quite accustomed to people or their food.   The ponies expected snacks.   One brown, black and white pinto marched right up to our table and began thrusting her head into our sack of sandwiches and chips.   I was looking the other way, absent-mindedly munching on a carrot stick (uh-huh) before I realized this miniature horse was muscling in on my veggie, pushing me off of the bench.   The critter was beyond persistent, so we rapidly gathered up our lunch and fled to the changing room with the small horse practically running after us.

The changing room was a temporary metal framed structure.   Thick plastic walls formed a small room open at the base and the entire top.   Inside were two small wood benches and the door had a lock.   We huddled inside to eat our lunch while the pony kept circling the transient building sniffing at the bottom.   She knew food was inside, but just couldn't figure out how to get to it.   My son quickly ate and went outside to regale all who walked to or from the beach on the boardwalk.   They immediately began taking pictures of the pony, giggling, chuckling and looking at our feet that could be seen from the outside. We ate, escaped to the beach, and later returned to the car.   The pony was still waiting.

Cherries in bloom at Tidal Basin

One thing I love about the spring in the Washington D.C. area are the cherry trees in blossom.   Many streets are lined with cherry trees that, on average, burst into spectacular pink and white flowers the end of March at or near Easter.   Early predictions pegged peak bloom, a time when 70 % of all flowers are open, to be March 17th.   February had been a warm month, but winter returned in March, and the cherry trees put brakes on their flower development.

The cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. are judged based on 6 stages of development. In 2018 Stage 1 (green color in buds) happened February 25th.   Stage 2 (small flowers or florets are visible) was reached March 15th.   Stage three (florets begin to extend) was March 26th.    The last 3 stages (in stage 4 the flower stem elongates, at stage 5 the buds are puffy white and stage 6 is peak bloom) have yet to occur.   The National Park Service now predicts peak bloom may happen between April 8th to the 12th.   The cold spell pushed the predicted bloom date to nearly a month later!   This might be frustrating for some of the anticipated 1.5 million people that come each year to see the cherry blooms.

There is an indicator Yoshima cherry tree growing at the Tidal Basin that consistently blooms a week to 10 days ahead of the others. It reached full bloom end of last week.   The rest of the 12 species of 3,750 cherry trees at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. should begin flowering very soon.   This is good news since the Cherry Blossom Festival ends April 15th 2018.

Riding through the cherry trees

The cherry trees in the neighborhood where I am staying are still tightly buttoned up.   The weekend is to be warmer which might speed things along, but I shall be gone.   This Easter I dug into my picture file and found two pictures from previous years.    At that time my visit coincided with peak bloom.   Walking amidst thick bundles of pink and white flowers is a magical experience.   The trees truly represent the miracle of life.

Happy Easter.