Evidence below of color in the February Vermont landscape.
When we sugared, February was the month of gauging when to tap — and sometimes a month when we began boiling. Other years, the winter dragged on and on, and February often seemed a month of hurry up and get ready to sugar — and then wait.
Having spent most of my adult life sugaring, those physical patterns wore into me. At a concert the other night, I thought how the drummer must have the habit of transporting his drums, to all kinds of places.
Winter, for long-term New Englanders, I think, comes with its own kind of baggage, our knowledge of particular hardnesses of snow, or the how the fluffiness of drifting snow globe flakes should be savored. Or, perhaps, our determination to seek that flash of color in a landscape of white.
The unexamined life is not worth living, as the aphorism goes, but perhaps an honorable and informed life requires examining others’ lives, not just one’s own. Perhaps we do not know ourselves unless we know others. And if we do, we know that nobody is nobody.
― Rebecca Solnit, Whose Story is This?
In the sub-zero cold, my daughter’s car cranks over after a long hesitation. Start, or not? Oh, February. So much effort.
The girls are gone skiing while I’m painting the kitchen. The cats move around from stepladder to drop cloth. Meanwhile, I listen to Dolly Parton’s America podcast. I had no idea Nelson Mandela was a fan of Parton.
The girls return with their cheeks bright red, cold and hungry.
Here’s a poem from Ensouling Language.
It is good knowing that glasses
are to drink from;
the bad thing
is not to know what thirst is for.
— Antonio Machado
Two summers back, I bought a gallon of paint for $10. At the local hardware store, the clerk had inadvertently mixed the wrong color and offered it to me. What a score, I thought. The color approximated the hue I once used to paint windows in a cupola — a color I christened Little Kid Yellow.
Not everyone in my household has been an enormous fan of painting our front steps bright yellow. Afterwards, even I wondered, Why do I do these things?
Likely, because of January. Because of November, too, and December, and February. Heck, March and April. By the end of May, tiny blue squill will sprinkle the greening-up grass.
But right now, color in northern Vermont is hard to come up. And the little bits of brightness — that’s gold.
The winter wind
at the temple bell
The day’s few hours of sunlight seemed distinctly February-ish — gold wild apples are still frozen to the tree.
November narrows down to the holidays, to that time of Vermont dark. The daughters decide to bake corn muffins — perhaps because of the color.
On impulse, I buy a small jar of raw honey at the co-op. 4:30 now, and the light is that pale pink and blue that reminds me of the sea. We’re warm, we’re well, our house is well-lit with little lights. I’ve stocked up on library books. The daughters are busy with their own stories and studies. I remind myself, It has not always been this way.
Time to close the curtains and start dough for empanadas.
If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.
— Jane Kenyon