THE CRUELEST MONTH
With apologies to T.S. Eliot, I’m starting to think that February may actually be the cruelest month. Call it cabin fever, snow and ice accumulation, fatigue, Dayquil and Nyquil overkill or whatever, I’ve had it. For December and January, I was Miss Pollyanna. But no more, no more.
The snows of December seemed season-appropriate and very beautiful, giving a festive air as final touches were put on holiday shopping and preparations. They were light fluffy snows with enormous flakes that flaunted their individuality—a starfish here, an icy web there, little tiny babies’ hands waving everywhere. All were exquisite and oh so mesmerizing.
We reveled in a squall through beautiful farmlands as we drove to my girlhood home in Buffalo for Christmas with my siblings. The giddy swirl of flakes was accompanied by the uplifting Handel’s Messiah on the radio, creating a Currier and Ives lead-in to Christmas Eve as we wound our way in our CRV sleigh, cheerfully singing along with “The Hallelujah Chorus.”
Even in January, even with one icy storm, even with leaving the house for the airport one Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. and not arriving home until 4:45 p.m., the morning-after beauty still astounded. “My Lord, what a morning,” I would repetitively announce to no one in particular as the sun shone on a landscape where sharp edges were now all softly rounded, whose surfaces glittered like diamonds in some Disney fairyland.
I’m not a fan of snow and ice any more than most people, but the serene aesthetic after a seasonal storm can still take my breath away. Apparently, many artists felt the same, given the plethora of lovely wintertime renderings by Redfield, Schofield, Utrillo and Sotter, to name just a very few.
My early winter observations were a privileged indulgence. As a retiree, I rarely had to navigate in any of it. Except for the airport trek, I was not needed anywhere and so had no reason to even leave the house during or after a storm. I also didn’t have to deal with any “snow day” school closings leaving me to juggle spur-of-the-moment childcare or deal with the energies of overly housebound children. To have such artsy musings about the splendor of winter is the epitome of luxury.
But now, now it is February. The snows of February have not been light and fluffy. The sun does not shine the next morning. The skies remain gray. These snows have been heavy and wet and destructive. Our beautiful border of arborvitae has been bowed and, in some cases, broken—revealing views not formerly seen and better left that way. A good-sized tree branch from a tree in our yard snapped and fell, damaging our neighbor’s new fence. The snows of this February were offering no redeeming aesthetic value—merely the frozen reminder of destruction.
We are lucky. We were not among the 90 percent of residents without electricity, and none of the fallen branches landed on our cars or went through our roof or a window. Not yet anyway. We have commitments but not jobs; we have young grandchildren but not young children. Even so, I am grumpy, grouchy, and grinchy. I am heartsick about the damage to our trees, especially the taller, more established ones which have previously been impervious to storms of all sorts. I feel badly to have added to our neighbor’s woes, as she is single and has been dealing with several other home issues all on her own. I am anxious to return to my exercise and walking routines. I will be glad to see the back of February.
Regardless of whatever month is deemed the cruelest, February—thankfully—is the shortest.
This essay is a chapter from Over the Hill and Gaining Speed: Reflections in Retirement. It is available on Amazon and local Indy Bookstores. For more information, visit her website at kaygrock.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaygrock.authorpage.