Many people in New England suffer the winter blues around this time of year. I am one of them. This is compounded by the academic calendar. The period of hard work and gray rainy days immediately before spring break is in my opinion, the hardest time of the year. However, February is not all gray rain. Sometimes it is transcendent sunny days, where the snow shines, and the cold slopes call for skiing and sledding. So here is a tribute to February: from the blinding light of a ski slope to the gray of a day comforted only by love…
For V, Winter Birthday
The mountains rose for this, over eons,
their wrinkled hides weathering
while the water cycle, slowly
sent one drop and another from
here and there to coalescence
at this spot, on this slope, on this bright winter day
perhaps the human hand and huge rumbling machines
added to the pile
She slides down, gleeful
Poles at an angle
Practiced body bent
Legs low and held perfectly still
Up and over on each bump, down smoothly
And each turn planned
The grin on her face, as the wind whips past
As the sun on her face, reflected from the snow like a solar flare
Transforms good to golden
Ordinary into a sacred ritual of joy.
Morning: Down the road, in the morning sun, ice glints on the branches of trees we pass. Refracted by a water prism, each ray of light multiplies. The roadside glows transformed. Ten thousand glittering points shimmer. Here comes a day of work, but the dark mornings of a month ago have been replaced by these brighter dawns, the sparkling snow, the transfixing crystal bushes.
Midday: A squirrel dangles from the thin elm branch, hoists a large chunk of seed encrusted suet from the top of the black wire basket and knocks it to the ground. Seeds spill across the white snow, flashing bright, as the culprit drags the prize through the fence to the neighbor’s yard. There went meals for birds, and here lies humor for us.
Evening: The evening drive toward the lowering sun is brighter now than the dark of Christmas time. Low in the sky, the pale sun lights the still paler blue sky, the clouds, white and shadowed, hover uncertain. In a dell, near the transfer station hill, the lee side of the hill lies in unmoving dusk, the bare branches of trees dark against the mauve ground of leaf and snow. A shimmer on the windshield blinds, the dusk seeps up from the hidden ground.
Night: The low sky clouded waits for the first heavy clumps of flakes. Into the cold yard I walk, followed by the dog. A halo forms around each streetlamp, its light reflected and re reflected from each drop of cloud, each suspended glint of ice until the whole glows. The stars, seen other nights in the far blackness, are hidden replaced by a wooly salmon glow. Could we swim in this chilly sky and feel its luminous wet?
Below is a poem I wrote after an afternoon of extraordinarily gray rain, here slightly edited after a debut on Facebook:
The Joy of Marriage to a Predictable Man
When the gray of February
Creeps through the window in spite of the lights
the macaroni and cheese, and tea
When a doubt that spring with its attendant joys, the sun and plants
Oh God, how I need the spring plants-
that doubt nags- we will be here
forever, in gloom- although
If one were honest, (and who is?)
February has many a sunny day glorious with snow and the light reflected-
But the gloom sucks those images away
Until I am lost in the stacks of the library on Sunday afternoon.
I cannot find the fiction
Or the stairs, and I spiral into my own head until I wonder
Will I every speak again?
But I grab the thought of that lovely man with bags under his eyes and gray hair
Sleeping on the couch,
Snoring with the dog beside him, waking and grumbling about having to take a trip
When he would rather be right here,
Because after all, what is better than here,
What could be better than here with me, and mac and cheese,
And the gray?
My heart climbs the rope of that predictable man
Out of the well of February gray
Out of my head, back to the couch, the dog, my love