the long month of february

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Contrary to the simplistic assertions of the calendar, February is, in fact, the longest month of the year. Ask any Michigander.

The cold, the snow, and the dearth of sunshine conspire to thwart our typical notion of time. Where once life carried on with abandon, now the terrain is silent, stark, and foreboding. The snow is piled up into formidable mountains under heavy, grey skies. The short days of winter are long and wearying.

Rarely does the sun emerge from behind those walls of gray clouds to beckon us to venture forth. It’s cold. Really cold. All the time.

Precious few dare a walk or run. It’s a lonely endeavor. Still, for some of us, there’s an instinct that compels us get out, to move one’s limbs, to feel the whole arc of our selves.

Sidewalks are generally a thing of the past, of course. Where folks made the effort and actually did clear their sidewalks, those turn out to be the most treacherous stretches for walking anyway – they have turned into unmaintainable ice sheets.

As a result, one walks or runs in the road, and at their peril. The roads themselves leave little space for a pedestrian. The snow and the ice encroach on the traveled portion of the pavement, forcing one to be wary and nimble, always prepared to negotiate oncoming traffic. It’s a sketchy endeavor.

It’s actually not strange to be forced to stop now and then just to figure out how to get from one point to another, like across a street. There may be such an amalgamation of dicey ice and snow mountains and traffic that it demands to be puzzled out in advance. Sometimes, the best course of action is actually to turn around and go back.

Nevertheless, those of us committed to walking or running persist. It remains, always, uplifting to get out into the air, if frigid. To see the trees, to hear the birds and be amazed by them. To spy the squirrels, still about their business somehow. To observe the dark river push its way through the stark landscape, sometimes carrying icy chunks. To feel the freedom of movement in space. To simply allow one’s mind to relax and expand beyond the confines of indoors.

I admit to feeling restricted to walking. The roadways are just too unpredictable and hazardous for me to feel safe running. And I am anxious to run. I need to run. I have considered an indoor track, but I yearn for the outdoor one. It’s how I feel whole.

Regardless of my petty needs, the reality is that February just carries on. And on, and on, and on.

I know, however, how these long, bleak days finally transform, making the wait somehow worth it. The little clues begin to show themselves before spring arrives and revives all of the life of this strange, harsh, sleeping world. Then, the long month of February becomes a fleeting illusion, a dream half-forgotten on waking.

It won’t be long. The calendar is proof of that.