A February dawn seldom breaks pastel
over a sun-soaked horizon, more often creeps grey
like a duvet over bare limbs, eaves, and dormant beds.
February dawns do not take time to smile languidly
on sentimental wishes plucked from flower petals,
or found in a four-leaf clover or on a bed of hay.
February argues against sensible minds awaiting
a fresh start with bright spring greens,
warm light, and tennis courts long laid fallow,
and simply demands that we listen.
So I listen and walk before the city takes shape,
a chill rain tapping a syncopated beat on my parka,
and I am brought back suddenly
on a winter duck hunt with Don, shotguns
cradled in folded arms against the drizzle,
me hoping I won’t have to put a finger
to a metal trigger and shoot.
Then I hear his voice when a varied thrush trills
across the park, piercing the drum of rain--
his low dozy chirping, his sudden rush of laughter
at something said, an old joke, a memory lost,
then a burst of surprise at some beautiful thing
a sensible person would never notice.
A low trill from a thrush, a gust of wind,
tree limbs waver. I lift my face, awash.
In the rain pellets I hear his halting voice
the days before he slipped away, affirming
February’s argument—love is eternal.
I’ve often thought of February as the drabbest, most uninteresting month of the year. We’ve all finally come down off the high of Christmas and New Years events, which we only vaguely remember, like floating through a farmers’ market. The booze is put away, mostly. So here's February, one month with no big holidays. What to do?
It’s still plenty dark out, too. And there’s the rain, more accurately the wet stuff coming down that can't decide if it’s snow or rain, mocking this season lolling between light and darkness, life and death. Oh, and don’t forget seasonal affective disorder, if you haven’t noticed it in my tone.
Do I sound sorry for myself? It gets worse. Other than the Super Bowl, February is deadsville for sports fans. Most everyone’s NFL team is in hibernation. The hockey all-star break lasts forever, and the Canucks have already mailed it in, so there’s that. Baseball isn't here yet, nor March Madness. This is Sports Dead Zone.
My wife, who loves Sports Dead Zone, thinks February is God’s gift to women, and that he put Valentine’s Day in the middle of it, when there’s no sports, so women have more chance of getting men to pay attention. I have to admit, she might be right. Maybe we need the discipline of February to compel us to remove ourselves from the distractions and simply hibernate with those we love.
Hibernating can be a good thing in a number of ways. Taxes are still a ways off. We can catch our breath and rest from the rush, maybe even read a book in a couple sittings rather than trying to finish it over twelve months. (Did I say “book”?)
At the risk of getting a little mushy, hibernating is a time to look inward and examine ourselves, see what’s making us tick. What gives us meaning and joy? Is that my wife grabbing me and forcing me to look her in the eye? What? You want to massage my toes while we watch The Only Murders in the Building? Okay.
You’ve probably heard about the eighty-year study that’s been getting a lot of press. The question the researchers have asked over the years is, What makes people happy? The answer varies, but the researchers have found a profound consensus around one answer – the quality of our relationships. They found the happiest people are those who have healthy relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances. They also found that it’s never too late in life to “become happy.” That’s encouraging.
The researchers further challenge us to take this test. Call or text someone you haven’t connected with recently and ask them for just eight minutes of their time just to talk. Those that have done the test say the chat has made them feel lighter, happier.
When I did my theological studies, one constant theme that came through in almost every class was that faith is not merely something we think about and put down in our favorite propositions or doctrines. Faith is relational, or it’s nothing at all. I fall back on that constantly. Not only is faith in God a person-to-person relationship, but that also means my faith in my family and friends, my commitment to them, is a reflection of the quality of my relationships with them. February has reminded me that I want all of that.