Well it’s here again – my least favorite month of the whole year.
Thursday is Groundhog Day and after they roust the poor critter out of his “log,” this year “Punxsutawney Phil” may or may not see his shadow. According to the famous groundhog tradition, if he doesn’t, that means we should be getting an early spring.
Whether he sees it or not, in this part of the country, you can bet there will be six more weeks – or probably more – of winter left to endure anyway.
This week as the thermometer dips down into single digits – and below… and the wind is blowing again, it’s hard to believe spring will ever arrive.
But, in four more weeks March will be here again. By St. Patrick’s Day we will have enjoyed a few “hints” of things to come, but you can’t get too excited about it because in the 40 years we have lived here in Clare, I can only remember a couple of nice days for Clare’s annual Irish Festival parade and only one when the thermometer was “flirting” with 70 degrees.
Mostly right through March it is blustery and cold and we always seem to get at least one whopper of a snowstorm to wind up the winter season in style.
Despite being tired of winter by now, February does have a few things going for it – and the biggest one on my list is the fact that it will be a whole year until it rolls around again!
Quite a few years ago, I was complaining in my usual fashion about February and got a great response from one of our readers, Laurie Hilyard of Clare, who defended this much maligned month (by me anyway) beautifully. Her six special reasons to love February have become a classic spirit lifter for me, so here they are once again…
- February is honest. February is Winter, with the capital “W.” It doesn’t pretend to be associated with any massive holiday season, or tease us with a vernal equinox and the first day of “spring.” It will be cold and snowy and there will be no crocuses blooming on the protected south side of the house. It is the heart of winter, and it never pretends that it isn’t. But, if you like snow-covered fields, the feel of cold air on your cheeks and nose, the aroma of wood smoke and the quiet purity of a winter morning after a snowfall, it doesn’t get any better than this.
- Increasing daylight. According to my trusty almanac, between February 1st and the 28th, there is an increase of 70 minutes of daylight, more than an hour! Compared to December and January, when most of us with outside jobs leave home in the dark and get home in the dark, being able to actually see your front steps (and the ice on them) is a treat.
- February has Valentine’s Day. The original and best, since Sweetest Day seems too much of greeting card company’s creation. Now granted, if you have no significant other and would like one, Valentine’s can be depressing. But for most of us, this is a one-shot card and flower day which, despite the retail industry’s efforts, has remained the kind of holiday that you really don’t need to put much thought into until after 5 p.m. on the 13th. No huge dinners to cook, parades, wearing of special colors, crowded beaches, or family squabbles over who hosted last year – just a day to say “I’m glad I met you” to whoever is important to you. And for those who are looking for a significant other, the Clare County Animal Shelter in Harrison is stuffed with warm fuzzy living things just waiting to adore you.
- The roads are frozen. This may not be of importance to those of you on paved roads, but for those of us who live on clay roads, February beats the heck out of late March and April, when the bottom drops out and suspension-eating ruts are the norm. Whatever color your vehicle was, it turns shades of brown, from light colored, almost dry splatters on the roof, to dark, gooey, drippy sludge that waits to attack your clothes when you get out at your destination. Compared to that, a few frozen ridges seem downright pleasant.
- February is short. For those who dislike winter, February’s four weeks pass quickly. And the whole concept of leap year is so much fun, that extra day is no hardship.
- There isn’t much to do in February. Feel like sleeping in on the weekend? Go ahead. There isn’t a lawn to mow and any weeds in the garden are buried under the snow. Want to spend the weekend watching movies? No midterm finals, so let the kids check out what’s on the shelves and toss one or two in for yourself. Like to curl up with a good book? Why not? It isn’t like you can put a new roof on the house anyway. How about making some homemade cookies? Sure! Swimsuit season is months away and if you get real ambitious and shovel the walk, you’ll burn off the extra calories anyway.
So warm up the cocoa, put on your most comfortable old sweats and watch the birds at the feeder. Have a snowball fight with the kids. Take the dogs for a walk down a deserted country road. Ski. Go snowmobiling. Beg or borrow a sled if you don’t have one, and find out if you are too old to go that fast down the hill. Take a nap. Light up the fireplace.
Be glad it’s February.