ON LOVE, AND LATE WINTER
Adapted from “ A Berkshire Journal” with permission from Epoch Times. | Dedicated to Lance Masai, Dec. 1963-Feb 2017 (Solo guitar composed and performed by Daniel Karp, for ‘A Berkshire Journal’ )
Oh, February, you fickle month of indecisive ice and snow! If it weren’t for that seductive little warm front you tossed in between those overcast skies and freezing rain, I think I’d find a den and hibernate until you go! And then again, I guess a bit of mud does help a little, to break up that predominantly sullen palette.
February is an overgrown-beard, on the long face of winter. Gray, and unkempt. Some will leave for warmer climates, and trim a week or two of growth off either side. But those of us who stay in the North will persevere – with patience – and perhaps an extra dose of Vitamin D.
Good old February—you challenge even the most sunny of spirits!
But we are on to you by now and know to buy our rubber boots a half size up. So by the time we start to hear the ghost of B.B. King sing out “the Thrill is Gone” from every winter-weary corner of the house, we are prepared, and pull those big boots up by the straps because they fit just right over thick, wool, socks – and, undeterred, head right out the door for some much-needed fresh air.
Walking the muddy trails by ice-edged streams, we notice frozen water droplets shimmering on the tiny buds of winter-resting trees. And at our feet, we see where sodden clumps of leaves have been pushed up by little snouts in search of seeds. A little further in, the trails of bobcats mark the scattered patches of remaining snow, and the cloven hoof-prints of deer wind off, through white birch stands.
Here and there, a drowsy raccoon has left a perfect hand-imprint along the water’s edge. Not far off, a cardinal sends out a bright song and the hearty rap of a woodpeckers beak on a hollow tree echoes, through the woods. If not for these indications of nature’s forward strides, this month would just be written off as one to get through.
Nonetheless, that one enticing thaw has seen me lifting the lid of the wooden box containing last year’s seeds and caught me placing them on the table between some cutlery – forks, and knives that represent a garden plan. Under the same false-Spring delusion I have somehow also managed to collect numerous paint chips on a spontaneous trip to the hardware store. Colors with names like “poppy,” “cantaloupe,” and “marigold.”
A new garden will have been vicariously planted, sweaters neatly put away in cedar chips, and all available surfaces painted in ridiculously mismatched, vibrant colors, before the first week in. Only to find out that a famous little rodent has declared six more weeks of this, at least, to get through!
So, over the years I’ve learned to temper my euphoria. Pacing myself, I come home with a hefty new doormat instead, and place it with a healthy, resigned ‘thud’ at the entry as I watch the sun slip back behind the next thick cloud, saying, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Late winter in the Northeast sure requires discipline. And humor – humor is imperative!
But for all its fallibility, February does have Valentine’s Day. And whether by Pagan or Saint, it is placed just so—halfway through. So as to offer a midpoint to count toward, and then away from. Love at the center, as is often the case, of arrival and departure.
Love is a very vast, sea. It is deep and moving, and dotted with numerous islands. The Ancient Greeks gave these a lot of thought and named them Eros, Philia, Storge, Agape, Ludus, Pragma, and Philautia. Some of these are rather enticing and appear to float your boat quite nicely, for a while. But lingering too long at anyone, you realize soon you might have lost your bearings. Navigation is key, you proclaim as you weigh the anchor and note once more the distance between the stars and the horizon.
For some, the journey through is short. For others, it is longer. At times the waters are calm, the sailing is smooth, the view – so lovely! Then all at once, the sea grows dark and stormy. And in the calm, that follows you come to, and find that you have been washed up on an unknown shore. Alone. Bedraggled and torn, with your ship in need of some repair. Take heart, dear Sailor – there are no mistakes! Just larger, wilder, swells that toss you here and there, until you learn to float, finally, and not to swim against the tide. A tide determined by greater, more compassionate hands than you can imagine.
When love shows up one day it may not be a splashy affair, all wrapped in pretty paper, with boxes of fancy chocolates tied in bows, and deep red roses by the dozen. It won’t necessarily fit into the plans you were so busy making for yourself.
But it will call on your heart and your heart will answer.
You won’t feel a need to question, there will be no cause to overthink. You will go the distance that needs to be gone with a strength that appears from the tender-most center of your being – and it might be further than you ever imagined…but won’t feel far, at all.
I folded a little boat from white paper this morning, just a few days before Valentine’s. I set it out on a small stream in the woods and pushed it gently, with a finger. There was no wind today, and it moved slowly over the water, away from the edge. This was no big sea, just a little stream, and it is February, in the Berkshires. But for all the lack of sun, I felt a warmth and lightness as the little boat glided smoothly along, over the clear reflection of trees and sky, on the surface of the water.
Plato wrote, ‘He whom love touches, walks not in darkness’.
I am grateful today, for so many things.