Finding February

Published 5:22 am Thursday, February 18, 2016

February isn’t hard to find — it’s the second page on the calendar, after all. In terms of popularity, though, February is at the bottom of the list. Any month that begins with Groundhog’s Day and doesn’t even have enough days to fill a calendar page needs a little PR.

Maybe a slogan would help — something like, “February Is for Optimists.” Frankly it takes an optimist to see springtime possibilities in February’s sepia-toned landscape. Yes, despite catchy words, the underlying message is still there: February is a month only an optimist could love.

Author and columnist James Kilpatrick once referred to February as “a dull, dour month with nothing to do and four long weeks to do it in.”

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History backs Kilpatrick’s view. From the beginning, February was low man on the totem pole. As the 12th month on the early Roman calendar, February was the time for clearing away the old — something like our end-of-the-winter clearance sales.

Speaking of clearance sales, February does have President’s Day. George and Abe are right in the thick of it too, advertising everything from washers to bed linens. Our founding fathers’ venture into commercialism indicates that even a president will do just about anything to relieve the tedium of February.

There is, of course, Valentine’s Day.

Why in the world did they put that in February anyway?

I can only surmise that Cupid had a problem with cabin fever along with the rest of us. Valentine’s Day does offer a romantic respite mid-February, but once the hearts and flowers fade away, we’re still only halfway through the month.

Could it be that Valentine’s Day serves as a reminder? We need to keep those rose-colored glasses handy for a few more weeks until signs of spring arrive.

February, I suppose, does have its good qualities.

For starters, it’s a month without expectations. If, for instance, you can manage a few hours in the garden tilling rows for the early peas, it’s an accomplishment. Later in the season, preparing two rows of peas wouldn’t amount to, pardon the expression, a hill of beans.

Placing an order for those beans, however, is the order of the day. Yes, it’s prime time for seed catalogs. From the comfort of an easy chair you can visit the world of floral fantasies and glorious gardens — all with the flip of a page.

Daydreams, the pessimist might scoff.

Perhaps, but without the inspiration born on a dismal February day, gardeners might have thrown in those hoes centuries ago.

Many gardeners, in fact, live for winter’s “down time.” Waiting on the pantry shelf are the rare jewels of summer’s bounty — emerald pickles, ruby-red tomatoes and amber-hued peaches. A dreary February day is the perfect time to enjoy the fruits of last summer’s labor.

Come February, when a gardener pops the lid on a jar of summer tomatoes it’s much easier to forget the unsavory (from biting bugs to bottom end rot) and simply savor. The heady aroma of homemade soup simmering on the stove, in other words, does wonders to lift the winter weary spirit.

Finding the good in February is like everything else in life — it’s all in how you look at it. Now is the time to remember the “half-full” rule. While we may not enjoy the ride, February is the month that carries us increasingly closer to spring.

Marge Swayne is the lifestyles editor of The Farmville Herald. Her email is