The Fulcrum Month

by | Mar 13, 2022


March, and signs of spring appear everywhere even before the official beginning of this new season: daffodils and crocus bloom here in the mountains of western North Carolina, I order blueberry bushes and apple trees from the county extension service, then check the weather forecast to learn that snow and single digit temperatures are forecast for the weekend. One day I wear a t-shirt and shorts, the next, it’s back to fleece, hat and gloves. Daylight savings time brings its own challenges of sleep deprivation, disruption of schedules. I’m not a fan.

Everywhere there are signs of new life alongside reminders of death, and a long period of contemplation and preparation for those of us who observe Lent. Amid the new bloom in my yard, the decaying leaves I did not rake last fall still cover emerging plants and flowers.

In many ways, this month is like an emotional blender: bright, promising, and new one day, then gray, frigid and festering with leaf mold and pollen the next.

Twenty-nine years ago I spent most of the month of March at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC. My dad had a cancerous lung removed on March 2, and the surgeon had told us that “these things usually go very, very well, or very, very bad.” What he neglected to prepare us for was the three weeks where my dad’s condition went from encouraging to despair, sometimes multiple times within the same day. The morning after the surgery, my dad sat up in his bed in the recovery room, flirted with nurses, joked and held his side when his laughter caused discomfort. But that afternoon, his nurse called me from the waiting room to come see if I could calm him. He was suffering from what was called “ICU psychosis,” a state of agitation, disorientation frequently seen in patients in an intensive care unit (ICU).

I knew from previous experience with another loved one that the only chance of calming him was to enter his world, so that’s what I did. It worked. He responded to my voice and knew me even though he was deep in conversation with his older sister and brother, both dead for many years.

Although he was moved to a room in the pulmonary ICU, that episode was the beginning of a repeating pattern. I spent most of my days and nights at the hospital or at the nearby motel operated by the hospital for families of critically ill patients. Most mornings, I would get up early, call my dad’s room and get a report from his night nurse, then go for a run, ending up back at his hospital room shortly after the day nurse had arrived.

Outside, buds began to swell on trees, daffodils and other flowers emerged and a few bloomed. The cool air had lost its winter heaviness, and was light. Signs of spring and new life were everywhere. I developed a close friendship with a first cousin and her family who I had idolized when I was a child. She was a beautiful blond who married a handsome man with a mane of premature gray hair.

Then the blizzard of 1993 hit the mountains, hikers were lost (and quickly found) in the Great Smoky Mountains, my yard was covered with hip-deep snow. What little snow fell in Charlotte quickly turned to slush, tender flowers and buds froze.

When my dad died after three weeks in the hospital, signs of spring were once again emerging. The late snowfall had insulated the warming ground, and all that new life was ready to emerge.

My life had changed forever. It was not that I did not rejoice in the new season. I did. I waited in happy anticipation of another first cousin’s new baby – which arrived in April. I filled my house with fragrant daffodils, and enjoyed early morning runs. But suddenly, as an only child, I found myself alone – no parents or siblings or children or partner. My close friends lived hundreds of miles away.

March, for all its emotional upheaval still signals the end of winter, the beginning of a new season, a time of preparation and anticipation. For another look at this fulcrum season, here is a poem by Emily Dickinson.

Dear March—Come in— 1320)
By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—

I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—
I declare – how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—

Who knocks? That April—
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame—


  1. nancy dillingham

    Pat, I fear my jonquils and hyacinths have belly-flopped never to rise again, but, like you I rejoice in the season and the promise spring brings.

    Lenten Lily

    Believed to bloom in the braces
    between Ash Wednesday and Easter

    wild daffodils erase
    covering earth’s ugliness

    their trumpet faces
    announcing Christ’s coming

    their golden color
    reminder of sunshine

    the brightness of spring
    the worth of rebirth

  2. Elizabeth Holden

    Two lovely poems about the coming of spring. I am heartened by them. Opened and ready for the beginnings of new life

    • nancy dillingham

      Thanks, Elizabeth–hope all is well and that your writing is “blossoming.” 🙂

      • Pat Riviere-Seel

        What a lovely poem, Nancy! I love “bloom in the braces” and of course the last line. I am always delighted when you respond with a poem. Sorry about your jonquils and hyacinths. My Lenten roses have perked up today.

        • nancy dillingham

          Thanks so much, Pat! Glad your Lenten roses perked up!

    • Pat Riviere-Seel

      Thank you, Betty! I hope you are painting and writing as you prepare to welcome spring.

  3. Sam Barbee

    Splendorous and timely poems.
    In W-S our jonquils seem to bloom earlier each year. Global warming?
    Jan is determined to cut them as they flourish and before late frost makes them “belly-flop”.
    We enjoy a few days with them that way.
    Peace and Love.

    • Pat Riviere-Seel

      Thanks for stopping by, Sam. I’m glad that Jan rescues a few jonquils!

  4. Bill Griffin

    Thanks, Pat, for art and heart. The chaos of that ordeal is so well reflected in the chaos of nature at this season. The saucer magnolias all burnt by unexpected freeze — our hearts all in cinders with grief.

    • Pat Riviere-Seel

      Thanks for stopping to read, Bill. Like all seasons, this time of rebirth and renewal is complex. Here it is the star magnolias that had their lights extinguished by the cold. “Our hearts all in cinders with grief,” speaks to so much.


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