Wretched February -- A Permanent Solution

Pardner, I don’t want to cause you overmuch distress, but February – that most wretched of months -- is bearing down on us like a runaway buckboard, and this year, I am taking defensive action.  I am circulating petitions to get rid of the month.  Yes, wipe it from the calendar, as it deserves.


January is statistically the coldest month of the year, but for the most part, that’s all it is: cold.  If you have a warm coat, earmuffs and a good battery, you can survive January just fine.  But February?  A depressing abomination of snow, ice, freezing rain, and presidential primaries.  Enough to drive a strong person to drink, and that, in fact, is one of the best antidotes I know for February.

So let’s just do away with it.  I got the idea from a character in my novel The Governor’s Lady.  It’s January.  Mickey Spainhour’s daughter Cooper has taken office as Governor of her southern state, while her son-in-law Pickett is running for President.  Mickey’s in poor shape in the hospital, crotchety because nobody will bring her a cigarette.  She says to Cooper, “I hope I make it to March.  I would hate to die in February.  It’s a miserable month.  If Pickett gets to be President, I want him to outlaw February.”  The minute it came out of Mickey’s mouth, I said to myself, “Huzzah!”

Now, you ask, how would we outlaw February?  Simply change the calendar to go directly from January 31 to March 1.  February no longer exists.  But, you protest, what about Valentine’s Day, the only redeeming feature of February.  Move it to January, when the cold weather invites you to stay inside snuggling with your honey-bunch and roasting chestnuts on an open fire.  The details can be worked out.  We’ll form committees.

My friend Delbert Earle is in total agreement with me.  He hates the dismal drearies as much as anybody.  And here, in January, the gloom has already set in at his house.  Old Shep the Wonder Dog is holed up under the house with his head between his paws, refusing to come out even to chase the garbage truck.  His boy Elrod broke up with his girlfriend and spends all evening in his room playing Everly Brothers records: Teen angel, teen angel, woooooahhhhh.  And Delbert Earle’s wife has that wild look in her eyes that says, “Time to shop!”

Delbert Earle, even before hearing of my petition campaign, has taken matters in his own hands.  He has written to the President, urging him to work for a new treaty called the “I-F-B” which stands for International February Ban.  Make it worldwide and total.  Delbert Earle imagines that it’s just as cold and dreary in Russia in February, and Putin might just as well skip the month too.

I’m afraid to tell Delbert Earle about the rumor that the President will take February off and spend it in Hawaii, leaving weighty matters in the hands of Congress.  And that doesn’t bode well either, does it.  Somehow, February and Congress just seem to go hand in hand.

So, we may be out of luck this year, but if enough of us get fed up enough next month and our petition drive gains steam, a February ban might be a good prospect for 2017.  We’ll have a new President and new Presidents like to make a splash.  That would be a goodie.

Now, about your question of whether Mickey Spainhour makes it to March?  In a gesture of crass commercialism in the true spirit of February, I say, “Read the book.”

What Is Winter For, Anyway?

In my novel The Governor’s Lady, Mickey Spainhour is suffering from congestive heart failure and figures she’s not long for this world.  Her son-in-law Pickett is running for President.  In January Mickey says, “I hope I make it to March.  I would hate to die in February.  It’s a miserable month.  If Pickett gets to be President, I want him to outlaw February.”  Mickey’s daughter Cooper, who has just taken office as Governor of the state, says, “I doubt Pickett will waste a minute on February.”

Well, he should.  Let me hasten to associate myself with Mickey’s opinion of February.  It can be, often is, a miserable – nay, a wretched – month.  Just ask Boston.  If I get to be President, I will outlaw February by Executive Order.

But…fair-minded fellow that I am, I admit that February does have one redeeming characteristic: Valentine’s Day, when my heart is full to bursting with thoughts of my own true love.  So I would move Valentine’s Day to March.  February also has the Chinese New Year, but the Chinese can deal with February as they please.

One thing about winter in the Carolinas, where I live, is that it may grab you by the throat, but not for long.  Even in abominable February, we always have a mild and pleasant day when winter loosens its grip and gives us some hope that cold and gloom are not a permanent state of affairs.  Most of our winters here are mild, and maybe we don’t appreciate them enough.  Even February.

What is winter for, anyway?  It makes us hunker down, gives us grim looks and sniffles and a bad outlook on life.  On the surface, winter seems to have little redeeming social value.  But perhaps Mother Nature knows what she is doing when she gives us winter.  Maybe she intends it as a time to just be quiet and wait and listen to the secrets locked deep in our hearts, to discover anew who we are and where we’re bound.

We modern humans are unaccustomed to silence.  We surround ourselves with recorded noise and idle chatter.  Much of our daily existence is filled, as the Bard said, “with sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

But Nature is smart enough to spend the winter in quiet contemplation.  Deep in the icy ground, or under the awesome silence of snow, animal and seed are locked in winter’s thrall, listening to the secret ticking of the great clock of the universe.  The hands move slowly, as nature’s creations regenerate and replenish, gathering strength for the noisy explosion of spring.  Nature knows when to dash about madly and when to bide her time, waiting and listening.

As I write this, the wind is howling outside, rattling the shutters and shaking the bare limbs of the trees.  The temperature will dip to 20 degrees tonight, even colder tomorrow.  But I am hunkered down inside – some peaceful hours at my desk working on a new book.  Soft music on the stereo, a cup of hot tea, my imagination.  A time of discovery, possibility, serendipity.  And Valentine’s Day is just ahead, hearts and flowers, my own true love.

Okay, maybe February is okay.  But just.  Still, like Mickey Spainhour, I hope I make it to March.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out if she does.