Whan that aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour …

Whoa, hang on. What? Let’s try that again.

When April with his sweet showers

Has pierced the drought of March to the root,

And bathed every vein in such moisture

As has power to bring forth the flower …

Is that any better? Do you recognize it? If you had to memorize it in high school, you remember. If you didn’t, you don’t have a clue. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense — it’s the beginning of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, which were published in the late 1300s.

You might be thinking, so what? Well, I do have a reason. I think it’s one of the first references to the coming of a new season in modern literature. Plus, it’s about the coming of spring, where we are now. And I love everything about seasons — being in them, transitioning between them, and the structure they create in our lives.

As a child, I lived in Maryland until I was 9, then we moved to Florida. For most of my adult life, I lived in a place where the temperatures never changed and there were two seasons: “Surf’s up!” and then the rest of the year. So I didn’t really remember much about seasons.

But then, in my previous life (before I retired), my work transferred me to England for almost six years. And I made an amazing discovery — seasons!

The weather in Britain was pretty much as miserable is it’s cracked up to be. But there were seasons — and there was something timeless about the rhythm of the seasons there.

I wonder if it was because I lived amid many centuries of life that had seen those seasonal changes.

I lived in a small village that was mentioned in the 1087 Doomsday Book. The church 30 yards from my house had been built in the 1200s. As I looked out my kitchen window into the field behind my house, I could see a pond that had been annotated on a local 1591 map.

The village was surrounded by fields that have been plowed for hundreds of years. I loved watching them gently change colors as the seasons came and went.

I also like the lore that goes with the seasons. In England, I learned a saying, “Oak before ash, only a splash. Ash before oak, we’ll have a big soak.” The meaning being, if oak trees show leaves before the ash trees, it predicts dry weather. If the ash leafs first, it will be a rainy summer.

These kinds of sayings usually have a truth based on long periods of observation.

Seasonal lore can also be local to a family. When I first moved to Hendersonville, a repairman came to fix something at my house. When he saw I had planted some tomatoes in mid-April, he sighed and shook his head. “Too early,” he said.

He told me the story of taking his wife to the hospital in a raging blizzard more than 40 years earlier to give birth to their son. The son was born on April 28. So their family lore was, no planting before Tom’s birthday.

Follow-up: A week later, there was a hard freeze, and I lost all my tomatoes. I now observe the “Tom’s birthday” planting rule.

Remember them

In May, it’s my tradition to talk about the military fallen heroes we honor on Memorial Day, so they won’t be forgotten.

Men and women go to war. Not all of them come back home. But one of the forgotten components, I think, is the families that are left behind.

For 10 years, I worked on a project involving Gold Star families. I met or exchanged emails with parents, wives, siblings and children. In more than a dozen cases, the wives were pregnant with a child who would never see his/her father. There were many dozens of young children who would grow up not even remembering their parent.

Over time, I’ve often thought about those kids and wondered how they were. Recently, I saw a story that answered the question about at least one of them.

Air Force Sgt. Patrick Griffin from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was killed in Iraq in 2003. At the time, his two children were 3 and 4 years old. This past March, his son Corey, now 18, enlisted in the Air Force “to honor my dad.”

This year on Memorial Day, please remember Patrick Griffin, his son Corey, and all the others who have died in duty to our country.

 

Times-News columnist Dawn Kucera is a Hendersonville resident. Reach her at dawnjkucera@gmail.com.