When that April with his showers sweet
The drought of March hath pierced to the root
And bathed every vine in such liquor
Of which virtue engendered is the flower….
Opening lines of The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Greetings. As has become my wont in composing these notes to you, I’ve spent a Sunday afternoon and evening enriching my mind about the month now upon us (April, presently). I’ve circled the calendar 53 times, yet I’m routinely surprised to find more in the passing months and seasons, religiously, culturally and aesthetically, than I knew before. I hope I’m offering you some small surprises as well.
April, its name thought to be rooted in the Feast of Aphrodite, is redolent with religious and spiritual significance. Buddha’s Birthday is traditionally observed on the 8th. In the Christian tradition April brings the conclusion of Lenten observance and the holy days associated with Easter. It is the month of rebirth and renewal, as Chaucer alludes, when what is dry and spent is kindled once again with essential nourishments — for parched things, water; for the Christian soul, redemption; for farmland, the planting of seeds; for the human eye that has grown tired of Winter’s more austere charms, the thrilling promise of buds on what weeks ago were merely branches and twigs. Even in our age of cockeyed, unseasonal weather, these natural transformations still intoxicate the eye and the spirit. April is also National Poetry Month; poetry is a nurturer that renews the inner life for many of us.
April’s theme of renewal is also reflected in Earth Day on the 22nd, and the first Arbor Day celebration was inaugurated in Nebraska City, Nebraska on April 10th, 1872, when more than a million Nebraska trees were planted. Thus April is not only about the promise of natural bounty but about reflection on our human responsibilities in this interdependent web of existence. It is not enough that we be objects of renewal; we must also be its agents.
But religious significance and social responsibilities, however heartfelt, may chastise our natural human exuberance, so April 1st is a special day dedicated to pranks and trickery. Doesn’t a sober spirit also cry out for the nurturance of humor and deflated pretense? The tradition in which our “April Fool’s Day” manifests is first seen in the Persian celebration of Sizdah Bedar, in 536 B.C.E., and now this institution of April silliness and laughter is venerated in many cultures and nations.
Our local Unitarian Universalist organizations are also tended in April, with the Pacific Central District Annual Meeting on the weekend of April 27th. District Assembly is a wonderful, lively and interesting experience, held in Oakland this year, and all are welcome to attend. You can find registration information at PCD-UUA.org.
Finally, please mark all your calendars for Starr King’s own Annual Meeting on May 20th after worship service, as your participation is essential. All are welcome, and anyone who has been a member for 30 days is entitled to vote. We will be sending electronic packets of written materials to all members in advance, so that you can participate efficiently and effectively while treading lightly on our environment. (Individual arrangements for hard copies can be made through the church office.)
This is your family — claim your voice!