why i won’t give up on february

by bam

it is, of all the stretches here of days, the one that, like a testy child, pushes you pretty much to the urge to pack it up, move in to that there closet, turn out the lights and stew a while.

perhaps, like mr. ground hog, you’ll peek out from time to time, catch the gloomy sky, dart back to where the coats dangle, and the boots convene a convention of vacuum-bustin’ dust balls.

perhaps you’ll hear the snow fall, for the umpteen-millionth day in a row, and you’ll want to pull your hairs out.

or, perhaps, you’ll go on cold strike: saunter out to get the paper in just some skimpy little t-shirt, and shorts. forego the knee-high rubber wellies. do strappy sandals instead. show skin. and what you’re made of. give them neighbors ’bout as big a shock as hearts can handle in the month of gooey chocolates stuffed in frilly, foil, heart-shaped boxes.

you can grouse, from now till thaw, about the unrelenting march of spirit-beating weather.

like me when learning how to drive (a stick-shift on busy highway, but that’s a story for another day), the weather here is apt to lurch. might wrench your neck, jerking back and forth from all the scribbles, dots, and dashes on the weather map.

oh, lord, what’s that funnel running through the south? oh, no, what’s with ice in cincinnati, city of the seven hilly hills? and here, in sweet chicago, get your neck brace on: one day cold and snowy. the next day colder still. followed by rain that might as well come down in cubes, for the way it freezes, turns to sheets of call-the-orthopod, i-think-i-broke-my-tailbone.

or, you can still the protest, leave the grumpy room, you can, if you care to, join my club. it’s a club for contrarians. we like what no one else does. cloudy days? we’ll take ’em. thunderstorms? bring on the cracks of lightning, riveting the sky. stirring wonder in the way the trees show up like x-rays there against the stormy night.

i don’t even mind all this: the diamond-dusted world i just woke up to. the way the flakes caught bits of moonlight, shimmered like a thousand million stars, scattered on the folds and folds and mounds and mounds of white.

i don’t mind how papa cardinal, my red-bird joy especially in winter, i don’t mind one bit how he sticks out against the snow. how he catches my breath. fluffed up on branches, trying to beat the cold with his feathers perched at full attention. there he is just now, right outside my window, and the sun is barely up. he is the lone flash of pigment till the valentines begin. and when they’re tucked away, papa still will strut his scarlet, the very heartbeat of promise.

i dare you, i think i do, to catch the flight of fury-feathered cardinal in the thick of falling snow and not to whisper, “oh, dear, there’s the flight from heaven, sent to stir my soul.”

that bird to me is hope on wing. a laugh-out-loud reminder that we are not alone. it can be unrelenting cold and white, and that red of reds shatters the tableau. bursts through the hopelessness, shouts, there is life where you are doubting.

and that, i think, is why i love this month. it’s the month of nearly giving up. of thinking you cannot make it this one last time. the month of thinking you’ll be tied and wrapped before it ever ends.

but then the holy hallelujah comes. the red bird. the pure contentment of mere survival. the steaming bowl of soup when you come in from shoveling, you sisyphean fool.

you think, perhaps, the thinkers were not thinking when they made this month the shortest one? of course they were, they understood. although they were down in rome, where i doubt this month is much too awful. and don’t even pay attention to the fact that this leaping year, we get a one-day extra helping. oh, loathe, you might say.
but not me.

i say, bring it on, this lull when winter settles in, sinks deep, when february mucks around inside my very marrow. proves it’s the boss and we are merely mortals. mortals complete with goosebumps (hey, who took the feathers?).

i like a month that isn’t mamby-pamby. you wanna be a winter month? well, then, act like it.

i take my coffee undiluted. i fill my car with full-strength octane. i’ll take february just the same.

if we have half an ounce of courage, now’s the time to show it. go ahead, take a walk. fill your lungs with frozen air, a composition that defies mere physics.

not one ounce of living worth its weight in ice-devouring rock salt comes without extracting something. matters not if it’s a season’s change, or healing heartbreak. matters not if your long haul is pit-a-pat of feet clocking many miles. or believing in a hard-won dream.

if we long for warmer winds, we’ve two choices: stay locked in closet waiting out the thaw, or step outside, and drink in what the shortest month has to offer–the chance to be wholly wide-awake to sparkling snow, rosy cheeks, and papa cardinal landed on your windowsill. oh my. i’ll take my february.

on ice, if you can spare some.

all right, all right, i understand. some of you just need to get it off your chest. “why i long for april,” a list. get started, you who can’t resist. however, if you, like me, are fine with february, then carry on. you tell us reasons why. and what you like to do when the second month is wholly up upon us……i think it’s black bean soup at our house tonight….hot and spicy and full of steam…

i snapped papa for you amid yesterday’s thick shaking out of snowy clouds. all day, three fine fellows, robed in red, and their mates, a little more in brown, kept me filled with joy, as they spent the hours, from dawn till almost dark, flitting to my bird-seed troughs….