I love February. Living in the Northeast as I do, this may seem counterintuitive. February is when it’s coldest and snowiest. (It’s snowing as I write this). It’s when people start grumbling about their driveways, the grayness, the salt on everything and running out of room to put the white stuff. It’s the month the cold seeps into your bones. It’s when friends in warm climes start taunting; “Don’t you wish you were here?” posting pictures of themselves in shorts next to palm trees.
Not for a minute.
February is the month that taught me about optimism. About hope. It’s the month that covers the ground with snow, but it’s the month in which I watch the crocus push through it. Sometimes, winter seems never-ending in February. But it’s the month that reminds me that it really is darkest before the dawn.
As a gardener, I spend February in giddy anticipation. It will be months before I put anything in the ground, but I know that things are happening deep inside the dirt. The forsythia will start to bud soon, impossibly hopeful, tentative at first, in what always looks like a rash act of premature optimism. The snow is just water waiting to be soaked into a thirsty Earth. The days have been getting longer for more than a month, imperceptibly to us, but not to our smarter green cousins. I gaze longingly at my garden, learning the lessons of February, knowing I’ll have dirt under my fingernails soon even though it doesn’t look it.
This hope even makes me appreciate the stark, cold beauty of February. I go for walks in the woods, seeing the frozen streams and hearing the burbling, running water beneath. I see the tracks of the animals and admire their gumption. I hear the call of the birds overhead, the ones who stuck it out, riding the cold currents. I breathe crisp air into my lungs. I look as far as my gaze can go and feel peace. Nothing looks like a painting quite as much as February does in a Northeast wood.
I don’t complain about February. I live where I live for a reason. I don’t want a life that’s always sunny and 70 degrees. I am so grateful for the seasons and their lessons. When it seems bleak and dark, it makes me feel strong to remember that the spring always comes, in gardens and woods like in life. And it’s a good lesson to (re-)learn: spring doesn’t feel like spring without February.