First day of February, and in the far corner of the yard the Adirondack chair, blown over by the wind at Christmas, is still on its back, the snow too deep for me to traipse out and right it, the ice too sheer to risk slamming these old bones to the ground.
In April I will walk out across the warming grass, and right the chair as if there had never been anything to stop me in the first place, listening for the buzz of hummingbirds which reminds me of how fast things are capable of moving. ~John Stanizzi “Ascension”
It has been a wintry February here with more days with snow on the ground than not. There has been constant challenge of finding safe footing when surfaces are snow and ice-covered; the local orthopedists have been busy putting together broken bones and dislocated joints from too many unscheduled landings.
Just when it seems winter will never be done with us, here come hints of transformation: bulbs cracking the soil, koi in the fish pond moving about beneath the ice, shoots shooting, crocus opening. Winter is not forever, February will wrap up its short stay on the calendar and we move forward as if we never had to worry about breaking a bone while traipsing about out in the yard.
All who have fallen are righted again. All is forgotten. All is forgiven. All is well.
When, in the cavern darkness, the child first opened his mouth (even before his eyes widened to see the supple world his lungs had breathed into being), could he have known that breathing trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs as it brushes in and out through flesh to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating, tramping the crossroads of the brain like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes and toenails? Did he have any idea it would take all his breath to speak in stories that would change the world? ~Luci Shaw “Breath”
Breath created the world by forming the Words that tell the stories that change everything and us.
…Then how his muffled armies move in all night And we wake and every road is blockaded Every hill taken and every farm occupied And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling. And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming We have to watch more coming.
Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world Is a bridesmaid at her miracle. Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle. The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood Are a wedding of lace Now taking place. ~Ted Hughes from “Snow and Snow”
I wish one could press snowflakes in a book like flowers. ~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”
It’s true that three snow days in a row is unprecedented in our part of the world. Being snowbound by driveway-blocking drifts has its advantages until it isn’t fun any longer and means even more work to be done both on and off the farm, especially for a physician stranded from her closed clinic.
I’ve been doing my best taking care of our clinic’s patients via messaging, text and other media, but there is a limit to my virtual reach: I can’t palpate a tender belly, or feel swollen lymph nodes or listen to someone’s palpitations, though it is a little easier to discern despair, anticipate anxiety and work out someone’s worries from afar.
But I do have a view of the wedding lace of our woods and the sparkling chapels made of our tired old barns and buildings on the farm. I’m reminded that even I can be dressed up with a covering as white as snow. So lovely to look at, if only to be preserved for the long summer days that lie ahead — a wilting snowflake pressed into a book like a flower remembered, its fragrance still attached.
Snow is falling today and more wind is forecast tomorrow.
It is a cold wind, whether coming from the north, chilling our bones as various weather fronts meet and clash overhead and we feel dumped on.
Another cold wind of reality is blowing through America right now as well, and not just on our farm.
There is considerable turmoil as Americans struggle with the increased need to “pay as you go” rather than “borrow for what you desire”. The debt load for young adults is climbing, especially student loans and mortgages. Fewer older people have any significant savings for retirement.
Our parents were Great-Depression era children, so my husband and I heard plenty of stories convincing us never to reach beyond our means. My grandmother moved her three young children 20 miles away from home in order to cook morning, noon and night in a large boarding house, grateful for the work that allowed her to feed her family. It also meant separation from their jobless, depressed and often intoxicated father for weeks at a time. She told stories of making sandwiches to feed hobos who knocked on the kitchen door, hoping for a hand out, and after sitting briefly on the back steps eating what she could offer from left over scraps, they would be on their way again, walking on down the muddy road, hoping somewhere farther along there may be another handout or perhaps a day’s work. Even in her time of trouble, my grandmother could find blessing in the fact she and her children had a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in (all in one room) and food to fill their stomachs. There were always people worse off and she wasn’t one of them.
My grandmother never lived comfortably, by her own choice, after that experience. She could never trust that tomorrow things would be as plentiful as today, so she rarely rested, never borrowed, always saved even the tiniest scrap of food, of cloth, of wood, as it could always prove useful someday. My father learned from those uncertain days of his childhood and never borrowed to buy a car or a piece of furniture or an appliance. It had to be cash, or it was simply not his to purchase, so he never coveted what he did not have money to buy outright.
So we, the next generation, were raised that way. Even so, borrowing began with loans for college but still working three jobs while maintaining good grades. But then there was borrowing for that first care and to buy a house.
But with grandma’s and dad’s stories fresh in our minds, we knew we couldn’t start that slippery slope of borrowing to take vacations or buy the latest and greatest stuff or build the bigger house. So we didn’t.
We have lived simply, driving our vehicles past 200,000 miles, continuing to harvest and preserve from the garden, using our appliances past the 25 year mark. And we’ve been content and happy.
Happiness isn’t stuff. It isn’t big houses. It isn’t brand new cars or the latest gadgets.
It’s being under the same roof as a family, striving together and loving each other. It is taking care of friends when they need help. It is reaching out to the stranger in our midst who has less than we have.
The wind is pointing us back to the values we had long forgotten as we got much too comfortable. It takes a storm to find that true contentment can rest only within our hearts.
“Why, what’s the matter, That you have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?” – William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
February never fails to be seductive, teasing of spring on a bright sunny day and the next day all hope is dashed by a frosty wind cutting through layers of clothing. There is a hint of green in the pastures but the deepening mud is sucking at our boots. The snowdrops and crocus are up and blooming, but the brown leaves from last summer still cling tenaciously to oak branches, appearing as if they will never ever let go to make room for a new leaf crop.
A February face is tear-streaked and weepy, winter weary and spring hungry. Thank goodness it is a short month or we’d never survive the glumminess of a month that can’t quite decide whether it is done with us or not.
So much ado. So much nothing. So much anything that becomes everything.