February has ended, but dislike of the month has not
Sitting here calmly relaxing for a few moments between deadlines, I get a feeling that I wandered out of my routine. Part of me wonders how and why; part of me wonders why I even care considering the topic to be of concern.
Basically, I snubbed February.
Many years reaching back decades ago, I read something that struck a chord with me and I have honored that common ground with a kindred spirit every year since. Until now. Sort of.
In 1949 Joseph Wood Krutch published his book “The Twelve Seasons.” Each of the 12 chapters featured and explored the character of a single month of the year as if it were a discrete season. He started with April, finished with March and dealt with February next to last.
Ah, February. His opening paragraph captured my imagination:
“The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”
He spent 13 pages exploring and explaining the character of the most disagreeable month of the year.
Living 2,000 miles west of New England, I nevertheless found his tirade against February to be charming for its reasoned blend of intellectual explanation and emotional frustration. Highlighting the month’s ups and downs, he captured February’s determination to taunt us from day one to day last.
And so for some 20 years I have dedicated one column essay every February to honor Krutch’s analysis by basically agreeing with him. That is, every year until this year. It’s March.
If pressed to summarize my perspective of February, I could do so in three words familiar in the cultural lingo of today. February has dementia. One day, it spreads a blue sky above us. Then for the next four or five days, it imposes a gray sky upon us. And on most of those few blue-sky days, February assaults us with winds intended to blow us off balance.
And ice! February thrives on ice to a degree that even a penguin would envy!
Some years — but not many and not in a row! — February relaxes its torment. This we can see in the return of migratory songbirds such as Say’s phoebe and mountain bluebird and in the blooming of wildflowers such as filaree and saltand-pepper.
But February’s relaxation does not endure. It always bounces back with more gray and cold, more snow and ice. And when its 28 week-long days are up, rather than surrendering with a bit of grace it frequently convinces March to perpetuate the depths of winter.
February’s lack of balance, of uniformity and consistency, sets a pattern of predictability about its lack of predictability. Which endorses my claim that of all the months in a calendar year February is the one with dementia.
Krutch concludes with a measured tolerance:
“Even as I write these lines, some clouds have parted and sunshine, as though to rebuke me for having singled out this as the most hopeless of months, is streaming down. But the snow on which it shines is as deep as ever … And I know from experience how many false springs there will be before the real one comes.”
Pondering these closing remarks, I realize the source of my own puzzlement.
I may have snubbed February, but February certainly did not snub me!