Dick cut and brought in last week a few stems of forsythia decorated with several flowers and numerous tight yellow buds ready to burst. He placed the stems in a water glass and put it on the windowsill in the kitchen where, day after day, I’ve watched another and then another flower open.
As I write this, a small vase with seven daffodils sits on my desk. The blossoms are not ones I forced through the dark evenings of the past two months. They, like the forsythia, are nature’s gift, the result of the unseasonable warmth of the past two months.
Lenten roses are also blooming, pushing their pink and rosy flowers through the dark green foliage that remains beautiful year round. January jasmine and Lenten roses normally flower in the winter months. Daffodils not so much.
However, since I have decided not to quarrel with the capriciousness of the seasons, I’m a happier person. I welcome unexpected flowers and am delighted to have days when I can set the ferns on the deck for a thorough dousing and a dose of sunshine. I revel in days when I walk about outdoors with only a sweater for a wrap.
But I haven’t given up my habit of fretting over apple and blueberry buds, hoping the weather turns cold enough to postpone the day of their opening.
Whether it comes with daffodils and forsythia or frozen ground, I’m always happy to welcome February. This short little month strikes me as a time to celebrate. The days grow longer — the sun now hanging around until after 6 each evening and rising closer and closer to 7:30 each morning — and the calendar is marked with celebrations. Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day are behind us, not that they are real holidays, and there’s more to come.
Valentine’s Day has long been one of my favorites. Years ago it was a day when my sisters and I cut out red hearts and pasted them on paper doilies to give to our parents, a day of cards for and from everyone in the classroom when I was in grade school and an occasion for candy and/or flowers from my favorite high school boyfriend (who is now, and has been for going on 62 years, my favorite husband).
Even Geoffrey Chaucer, in the late 14th century, wrote about St. Valentine’s Day in a poem, “A Parliament of Fowls,” penned to mark the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Chaucer writes that the engagement took place on St. Valentine’s Day, the date when the birds gather to select their mates. I knew Chaucer only as the author of “The Canterbury Tales,” but a college class introduced me to many of his other writings.
St. Valentine was himself a martyr whose birthdate was marked by Roman celebrations with no hearts or flowers involved. Scholars believe Chaucer was among the first to pair the day with the idea of romantic love, though other authors around that same time wrote similar accounts of birds mating on that date.
No matter who was first, the populace was glad to seize upon the idea and make the most of the holiday. And so do we today.
Though not associated with gifts of love, Presidents’ Day gives us one more occasion to take a little time off and reflect on those who have contributed, despite great odds, to the success of our nation. Back in the early 1960s when I taught fifth grade, Presidents’ Day was not a day off from school. Dick, employed as an engineer, had a holiday. On that day he brought our movie camera to my classroom and filmed my students, many of them making faces and otherwise showing off for the camera. We watch that movie occasionally and laugh at those youngsters, and I marvel that I made it through the year with my sanity intact.
My other reason for loving February is that it is my birth month. What could be bad about the month in which you were born? Even a blizzard can be warmed up with a cake blazing with candles — and if my cake were topped with the appropriate number of candles, it would be a blaze indeed.