Oh, April!

Oklahoma City is the farthest north I’ve ever lived and while Lubbock and Dallas have their share of cold days and snow storms, I’ve spent most of my life in places that are warm more than they are cool. On rare occasions I’ve thought about moving north. Once when I was interviewing at a campus in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, Peter asked if I realized that counted as south Canada and oh by the way, had I ever heard of ‘lake effect snow’? On those rare occasions, I’ve said to myself, I could learn to dress for cold and I suspect that’s true. But I also have to admit that the duration of winter in northern climates might just be a problem. See, I’m ready for Spring to start about the end of February. And April in this part of the world can be spectacularly beautiful.

This week, I drove back and forth to Oklahoma and the bluebonnets are spread across the medians and other flowers are starting to add their color to the scene. In the neighborhood, the purple grape smell of the Mountain Laurel has burst out and is almost gone. And as I write this the windows to the house are open with a nice breeze flowing in and the bird that hangs out in the tree outside this window is tweeting to the world. It’s lovely.

Chaucer describes it this way:

“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;”

Or in a more modern vernacular:
“When fair April with his showers sweet,
Has pierced the drought of March to the root’s feet
And bathed each vein in liquid of such power,
Its strength creates the newly springing flower”

And then there’s the reality that sometimes, particularly if you live a bit further north, is that April weather can be a bit unpredictable. Thunderstorms and tornados are common, as are cool fronts that drop the temperature even into May. Like so many parts of life, the arrival of spring isn’t a linear process.

And then there’s April on campus. Lovely days to study outside on the lawn, papers due, tests to be taken. And for faculty and staff, April is one of ‘those’ months. Because everything has to happen now, before the end of the year. Events, celebrations, banquets, graduations, they all have to happen before final exams start. So much fun and so much stress. And yes, I have been known to call April “hell month”. In so many ways it’s tougher even than the start of the year, in part because we all get spring fever.

So today’s letter is a reminder that self-care is a leadership skill. When life and work get hectic, it’s time to double-down on the things you do to keep yourself healthy and happy and able to go the distance. And to enjoy the celebrations of the good work you and everyone around you has accomplished this year. After two years of only virtual celebrations, this year’s versions may be more important than others.

In other words, take advantage of April’s beauty, and walk across campus, or around your neighborhood if you are working more remotely. Smell the “newly springing flowers.” Listen to the birds singing. Watch the squirrels playing. Or when the storms roll through, enjoy watching the rain and revel in the thunder and lightning. Being out in nature is potent self-care practice and April, as hectic as it is, is a great time to get outside. No matter where you are in the world.

Happy April, everyone!

Take care,

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