In a memorable piece of irony, the poet T.S. Eliot called April the “cruellest month”. Eliot was fond of literary allusion, quoting – or as he put it, “stealing” – phrases from writers who had gone before him. In this instance, Eliot is contradicting quite knowingly another, much earlier poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who in his famous line finds the showers of April “sweet”. I tend to side with Chaucer, and although I can see what Eliot was driving at – that the budding of life in the dormant earth should remind us as much of death as of life – my own response to spring, including this particular spring, is a rosier one. We have had a week when days of rain and sun alternated in emphatic succession, and it is the earth’s possibilities that win the poetry prize.
The past few days I have been in New Brunswick burying my father, who lived a long life and died peacefully – in tune with all the natural rhythms, in the fullness of his days. The presence of grandchildren and great-grandchildren struck that appropriate and exuberant chord of the season – over the memorial proceedings there sprinkled and sparkled a lot of April and its promise. The sun shone, and in the gardens that endure harder winters than Victoria’s, green shoots of tulips were pushing up from the dark soil. Snow, dirt-crusted and carved by the thawing weather, melted in the stubbornest shadows.
About ten days ago we saw the passing away of one of our School’s great alumni and former governors, John Nation. John was at the school decades ago, in the 1930’s, and was a long-serving Board member in the sixties and seventies. He was one of the steadfast governors who saw the School through the amalgamation period in the early seventies, dispelling the spectre of decline and finding transforming possibilities that set us on our present course. A couple of weeks ago, aware that his days were numbered, his daughter called to say he hoped I could drop by. He was a tall man, and sat upright in his chair, in one of his old School rugby shirts that he had worn when he was a boy. The shirt must be over seventy years old. Quite frail, he nevertheless spoke and thought clearly. In recent years he had always enjoyed his regular occasional visits to the campus – especially on Remembrance Day – and he was glad his work at our School had proven worthwhile, he said. By contrast, he said the world was in a mess, that a lot of chaos and conflict were making it worse, and that principle didn’t seem to prevail very much. Having a word with the Head of School was one thing he wanted to make sure he did before he died; he said he believed we should continue on the path of becoming literate in the ways of a much more global world. It was only places like St. Michaels University School, the spirit that guides them, and the students that are in them, that gave him hope for the future. Vivat.