Heaven Help Us, It’s February!

By , February 1, 2010

With apologies to those born in the month, a rant:

I can be a pretty cynical person, so to compensate, I make an effort to be positive, particularly about those things that I can’t control. In this spirit, let me phrase this carefully: I love all the months of the rolling year, but among them, I love February the least.

February has been a bad month for me my whole life. As a small child, it was the month (in the part of the world in which I lived at the time) that the quality of snow began to degrade. Relentless warming and thawing began to destroy the winter wonderland I enjoyed so much. Sledding suffered, snowmen and igloos collapsed, the giant icicles on the roofline came crashing down. The warmth and light of spring and summer were still far distant, unreachable across a long, slush-filled field.

Then there’s the pronunciation of the month. I still remember the shock I experienced when my kindergarten teacher informed me that the month is pronounced “Feb-ROO-wary,” not “Feb-YOU-ary.” I thought she must be from some other country! She caught me early, and I made the switch, but every time I pronounce the name, there’s a microsecond of hesitation. I notice a lot of my fellow Americans don’t bother to pronounce it correctly. Maybe it’s just not worth it?

Finally, there’s the holiday that popularly defines the month, Valentine’s Day. In and of itself, this holiday isn’t much to get excited about, but coming so soon after Christmas, it seems even more second-rate than it might otherwise. To me, it’s a pale pink holiday in a pale pink month.

As a kid, Valentine’s Day meant the ordeal of the Valentine’s Box: it was the day when you had to give valentines to your classmates, after an agonizing selection process. A standard pack of valentines offered subtle but crucial shades of meaning and nuance in each message. That phrase, so fraught with meaning in its slight variations, “Be My Valentine!” held such import, particularly when paired with artwork. It was not to be used lightly. After an exhausting night of selection to ensure that certain girls received tokens of special favor, while others received diplomatically neutral messages, and none of the boys received anything that wasn’t a metaphorical punch on the arm, I was in no shape to face the day. After all, hadn’t everyone gone to these same pains? Didn’t that frilly pink and red box of mine contain messages from each and every one of my classmates that required careful decoding, to divine their true feelings toward me?

Had I known then that I would not, in fact, grow up to marry any of my classmates, I would have saved myself a lot of anxiety.

As an adult, I think a lot about romance on many different levels. One key to romance—I believe, and the experts tell us—is spontaneity. Is there anything less spontaneous, and thus less romantic, than a specific day each year on which one must be romantic? To be truly effective, Valentine’s Day should be kept in one’s bag of tricks, to be pulled out and celebrated at unexpected moments. Anything less is . . . well, rather unromantic.

About the best thing I can say about February is that it’s short. A 28-day month is pretty convenient, and February’s the best one of the twelve to truncate, because it still seems longer than all the others!

I learned recently that folklore holds that February became the shortest month when August stole one of her days. Ha! I wish that were so! I’d love it if August seemed as long as February.

2 Responses to “Heaven Help Us, It’s February!”

  1. Hi, Mark,
    Greetings from Skagway! I stumbled upon your website and find myself fascinated with your blogs, as ya’ll are living the life we aspired to, but find ourselves a little too ensnared by the creature comforts to make such a leap. Also, we had friends in Haines who also lived off the grid (last cabin on the left on the way to Chilkoot Lake), and remember their hassles and worries with off-the-grid power, water, etc. As my husband and I age, I’m not sure we could take on the challenges of off-the-grid life, but I think I’d like to try sometime.

    Love the cabin and the property! And I swear I may have a littermate to your cat, as my cat, Lars, was a rescue from the Haines shelter.

    The one drawback I see, and this may not be a problem for you with such good neighbors, but if you have livestock (chickens, etc.), it’s hard to get away on a vacation.

    Your blogs have me fascinated, and I could spend all day reading them! As the holidays are here and we’re a very active community, I may have to wait until February. As with you, it’s not my favorite month except for the fact that the sun is returning and it’s my birth month.

    Wishing you well, and maybe we’ll meet someday, God willing and the creek don’t rise!

    God bless!

    Jeanne

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Jeanne,

    Glad you found the blog! I completely understand about creature comforts–they can be very ensnaring! This life can be hard, especially as we age. So far, so good, but I often wish we’d started when we were younger.

    There’s an easy way to tell if you have one of Spice’s litter mates, as the shelter had given them names like Winky and Blinky. Ring a bell? If so, I’d love to know what your cat is like. Spice was the runt of the litter, so while she definitely has issues, we often wonder if her older siblings weren’t more secure.

    Vacation is a real problem for us. We don’t have livestock yet, but the garden and cat do need tending. Besides, the part of the year everyone wants us to visit them is our busy season. It’s never easy to coordinate that. I think that our main regret about living on subsistence and micro incomes is the lack of funds for recreational travel (that and not being able to pay cash for Aly’s college, but who can do that?).

    If you ever get down our way, let us know, and we’ll give you a tour of the homestead if you’d like. We have been to Skagway once or twice. We like it, and definitely need to explore it a lot more.

    Mark

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