(RNS) "April is the cruelest month," claimed T. S. Eliot, but today I have little appreciation for his angst.

The long winter is finally relinquishing its claim. Bulbs give rise to wondrous flowers once again, so many years after my backbreaking labor, so many times to be reborn with the same intensity of that first spring.

There is no more wishing for snow days or griping about missing gloves. The shovel still sits on our front porch -- out of neglect, not necessity.

Allergies are blooming, too. Sneezes are no longer signs of illness to come but a reminder it is time to watch for air quality and pollen counts.

I pinch my fingers in the annual rite of bringing down screens and pushing back storm windows. Every year I howl in dismay and joy as the sweet air blows in while I wrestle with glass, wood and aluminum. Sweaters and woolens get cleaned and stored. Flimsy pastels rustle in the closet now, daring me to expose my white skin to the warming sun. It is still too early for shorts and sandals but I begin to eye them in the stores, knowing that soon I will wear only what is light and easy. No matter how old I am, I still feel the joy of spring just as surely as I did as a child, anticipating Easter baskets and new spring clothes. I continue to study magnolia buds and sniff daffodils, never tiring of their debut.

I feel young in the spring, even though another year has passed and the bright sunlight illuminates the signs of age. I feel hopeful, even though I know that soon I will repeat the process in reverse, pinching fingers as I bring down the storm windows and shiver against the icy air.

Experience has not dulled my joy. In some ways it has heightened it. Every year I begin to dream of spring in January, long for it by February. By March I am grasping at every warm day, searching for signs spring has truly come.

But April offers assurance that my hope is not in vain. Clouds produce rain not snow, cool mornings give way to bone-warming afternoons.

I am glad Easter offers the spiritual lesson for nature's rebirth. I come close to becoming a pantheist in spring as I drink in the beauty around me. But nature will run its course and soon the daffodils will shrivel and bow their heads. I need something more.

Easter reminds me that the feelings I have every morning as I awaken to birds chirping go beyond emotion. The stirrings I feel come not just from memory but from some deeper human longing.

I need to believe there is more to life than the temporal and predictable. I need to be surprised that a small ugly knot can produce a miraculously beautiful bloom. I need to sense that my weary winter spirit can be revived.

I need hope, pure and simple. I need to live knowing that what I glimpse each spring is a metaphor for the sacred drama. So for me, this month is a sign of eternal Aprils to come, a reminder that my puny human faith can be fanned by a sweet fragrance and warm breeze. I am grateful that God has once again sent gentle messengers to dust away doubts and help revive my winter-weakened passion.
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