February 03, 2003

In Defense of February

Guest Blogger at Fragments!

The following Winter observation was aired on our local NPR radio station last week. This nice essay was composed by our friend Jenny Chapman, a writer and artist, who lives not far from us here. You might consider her article praising February as 'point-counterpoint' to my decrying the woes of January just a few weeks ago... also read as an on-air essay. Do offer comments if you feel the urge, and Jenny will read them here at Fragments. Maybe with a little encouragement, we could talk her into becoming a blogger, eh?

January is drawing to a close, so that can only mean one thing: the annual round of February bashing is about to begin. Poor February. Typically, the only positive thing said about it is that it’s mercifully short. People groan about bleakness, cabin fever and the flu. February, it seems, takes the brunt of everyone’s winter temper. I’m not sure when all this ill will toward February began, but I think it’s gone far enough.

I like February. While it’s true I tend to champion the underdog, I believe there are many things about this brief winter month that deserve kinder consideration.

First off, there’s Groundhog Day. What other month can lay claim to a holiday set aside specifically for the recognition of an animal? Sure, we call Thanksgiving turkey day, but the turkey dies - and then we eat it! Easter would still be observed even without that egg-laying bunny. Groundhog Day, on the other hand, is solely designated to celebrate the important role of marmots in our lives. Arguably, this role of the marmot is not a scientifically relevant one, but it’s still a bit of fun after all, even if those guys with the top hats in Punxatawney do get carried away with it.

Too often, February is maligned as a bleak, gray month of boundless monotony. While it’s true that autumn's bright leaves are memories and the hot colors of summer are all but forgotten, the color of late winter is subtle and luminous. February paints with watercolors. There are shades of deep indigo in the juniper berries, alizarin crimson on the wild rose hips and yellow ochre in the willow branches. I’m partial to wild raspberry canes. Their waxy texture invites the hand to wipe away their powdery lavender coating to reveal the smooth, rich purple cane below.

The skies aren’t always gray and stormy this month. The crisp deep blue of a cloudless February sky rivals even those of October. Soon these skies will be busy with the first returning migrants. Grackles, pine warblers and red-winged blackbirds will arrive with the first break in the weather to stake out their territories again.

It’s obvious now that the daylight is growing. The late afternoon sun suffuses everything with a thin, gold light that grows measurably richer daily. There’s excitement in that realization. It means that spring is not so far away now. It will happen. With February’s advent, winter begins to fade and loosen its hold on us. Sure. It will be cold for awhile yet, but now we have hope. Hope for the sun returning, hope for warmer days and easier times. In February, we’re standing on a cusp, turning our backs to winter and moving forward to spring. This month so easily dismissed as devoid of grace reveals a kinder self, not brutal but benign.

So then, here’s to February, the shortest month! To the lengthening days, the waning of winter and hopes renewed. To all of this and groundhogs, too!

Posted by fred1st at February 3, 2003 03:31 PM | TrackBack

Jenny, I"m with you...it's January that's long, bleak, cold and just plain icky.

Here on the Canadian prairies, the two weeks of minus 40 weather that is January is over, and it's more temperate (okay, 10 above 0F. passes for "temperate"). Because we're so far north, the horror that is darkness at 9 am is gone and the sun starts rising in time for us to go to work in daylight by mid-February.

There are only 28 days to stretch a paycheck...now what can be bad about that? And there's Valentines...sure it's horribly commercial, but it's a great excuse to eat chocolate. In fact, it's encouraged.

So that's better weather, daylight, cash and chocolate...what's not to like about February?

Posted by: Jane at February 3, 2003 03:59 PM

February is a maligned month downunder too! In Sydney, February is the month of extreme humidity as well as heat. People are cranky because they have gone back to work after holidays. In fact, most of the place shuts down in January. Factories close, public holidays add to work holidays. February is a rude shock to the system.

Posted by: Jan at February 3, 2003 05:07 PM

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