Ah, February, with all your indecisive ice and snow! If it weren’t for that teasing little warm front tucked between those overcast skies and all that freezing rain, I think I’d find a den and hibernate until you go! Nothing like a little mud thrown in, to break up your predominantly sullen palette.
This month is an overgrown-beard, on the long face of winter. Gray, and unkempt. Many will leave for warmer climates and trim a week or two off either side. But those of us who stay will have to persevere with patience, and perhaps an extra dose of Vitamin D.
Good old February—you challenge the most sunny of spirits!
But we are on to you by now, and know to buy our rubber boots a half size up. So by the time the ghost of B.B. King sings "The Thrill Is Gone" from every winter-weary corner of the house, we are prepared to pull those boots up by the straps over thick wool socks and head out for some necessary air.
We walk the muddy trails by ice-trimmed streams where water droplets shimmer on the tiny buds of winter-resting trees. And we notice all the places where the sodden leaves have been pushed up by little snouts, in search of seeds, where trails of bobcat tracks run through scattered patches of remaining snow, and cloven hoof-marks of the deer wind off between white birch stands. Here and there a drowsy raccoon has left a perfect hand imprint along the water’s edge. Somewhere, a cardinal sends out his bright song. If not for these indications of nature’s strides, this month would just be marked as one to get through.
Nonetheless, that one enticing thaw will have me opening the wooden box with last year’s seeds. I will lay them out on the table between the cutlery, the forks and knives that represent a garden plan. I find myself on a trip to the hardware store collecting numerous paint chips with the names of "poppy," "cantaloupe," and "marigold."
A new garden will be vicariously planted, sweaters put away in cedar chips, and all available surfaces painted in ridiculously mismatched, vibrant colors, before the first week in. Only to find out that a famous little rodent has declared six more weeks of this at least, to get through.
So I’ve learned to pace myself, and come home with a hefty new doormat, instead. Placing it with a healthy thud at the entry, I watch the sun slip back behind the next thick cloud, saying, "Here’s looking at you, kid."
Late winter in the Northeast requires discipline. And humor. Humor is imperative.
But, February does have Valentine’s Day. And it is placed just so—halfway through. So as to have a midpoint to count toward, and then away from. Which brings up of course, the topic of love. That alone, could keep you plenty busy with some food for thought, now that the day itself with all its fanfare has gone by, and you’ve resigned yourself, with a drawn-out sigh, to putting the seeds away for several more weeks, and stashing the paint cans in the basement for a second look, in March.
Love is a very, very, big, sea. It is deep and moving, and dotted with numerous islands. The ancient Greeks gave these a lot of thought, and named them Eros, Philia, Storge, Agape, Ludus, Pragma, and Philautia. Some of these are quite enticing and might float your boat quite nicely, for a while. Navigation is key, as you make your way from one to the other, dropping your anchor here and there. If you linger too long in just one port, you could get lost, and miss out on the larger picture.
The journey through is short, for some. For others, it is longer. At times the waters are calm, the sailing smooth, the view so lovely! Then all at once the sea grows dark and stormy. You find yourself washed up on an unknown shore, alone. Bedraggled and torn, with your ship in need of some repair. Take heart! There are no mistakes, dear sailor. Just larger, wilder, swells that toss you here and there. To teach you how to float, finally, and not to swim against the tide—which is in greater hands than you can imagine.
An ancient Chinese saying goes, “Restraining yourself for a moment, you will find the winds and waves become calm. Take one step back and you will see, the sea is vast and the sky is boundless.”
When love shows up one day it may not be a splashy affair, all wrapped in pretty paper, with boxes of chocolates tied in bows, and roses by the dozen. It won’t necessarily fit into the plans you were so busy making for yourself, but it will call on your heart and your heart will answer.
You won’t feel the need to question, there will be no cause to overthink. From the center of your being, you will go the distance that needs to be gone. Which might be further than you ever imagined but won’t feel far at all.
I’ve folded a little boat from white paper this morning, just a few days before Valentine’s. I set it out on the small stream in the woods and push it out gently, with a finger. It moves slowly over the water, away from the edge. There is no wind today, and the little boat glides smoothly along over trees reflected clearly, on the surface of the water.
"He whom love touches walks not in darkness," Plato said.
This is not a big sea, and it is February, in the Berkshires. For all the lack of sun, I feel a warmth and lightness, as the little boat glides smoothly along, over trees reflected clearly on the surface of the water.
I am grateful today, for so many things.
Cardinale Montano is a freelance writer living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She shares her creativity with good friends, family, and eager learners, and celebrates daily the blessings of nature in the beautiful Berkshires. She is the founder and designer at LineflaxAndRoving.com