Welcoming February – Part I of II
Greeting February – Origins
In the words of one historian, “The Roman month Februarius was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period. They were added by Numa Pompilius about 713 BC. February remained the last month of the calendar year until the time of the decemvirs (c. 450 BC), when it became the second month. At certain intervals February was truncated to 23 or 24 days, and a 27-day intercalary month, Intercalaris, was inserted immediately after February to realign the year with the seasons.”
Greeting February with Art – Part I of VII: Benjamin Williams Leader
Greeting February with Poetry – Part I of VII: Helen Hunt Jackson
From “A Calendar of Sonnets: February”
“Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter’s pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year’s ill,
And prayer to purify the new year’s will.”
Greeting February with Song – Part I of III: Josh Groban, “February Song”
On This Date – Part I of III: Thomas Cole
“The sky is the soul of all scenery. It makes the earth lovely at sunrise and splendid at sunset. In the one it breathes over the earth a crystal-like ether, in the other a liquid gold.” – Thomas Cole, American artist and founder of the Hudson River School, who was born 1 February 1801.
Greeting February with Poetry – Part II of VII: Thomas Kinsella
“Mirror in February”
The day dawns, with scent of must and rain,
Of opened soil, dark trees, dry bedroom air.
Under the fading lamp, half dressed — my brain
Idling on some compulsive fantasy —
I towel my shaven jaw and stop, and stare,
Riveted by a dark exhausted eye,
A dry downturning mouth.
It seems again that it is time to learn,
In this untiring, crumbling place of growth
To which, for the time being, I return.
Now plainly in the mirror of my soul
I read that I have looked my last on youth
And little more; for they are not made whole
That reach the age of Christ.
Below my window the wakening trees,
Hacked clean for better bearing, stand defaced
Suffering their brute necessities;
And how should the flesh not quail, that span for span
Is mutilated more? In slow distaste
I fold my towel with what grace I can,
Not young, and not renewable, but man.
Greeting February with Art – Part II of VII: Gray Jacobik
Greeting February with Prose – Part I of III: Shirley Jackson
On This Date – Part II of III: Terry Jones
“Every age sort of has its own history. History is really the stories that we retell to ourselves to make them relevant to every age. So we put our own values and our own spin on it.” – Terry Jones, British comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director and author best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team, who was born 1 February 1942.
Greeting February with Poetry – Part III of VII: Mayuzumi Madoka
Greeting February with Art – Part III of VII: Sarah Yuster
Greeting February with Song – Part II of III: Lou Reed, “Xmas in February”
Greeting February with Prose – Part II of III: Joseph Wood Krutch
Greeting February with Art – Part IV of VII: Alfred Sisley
On This Date – Part III of III: Buster Keaton
“No man can be a genius in slapshoes and a flat hat.” – Buster Keaton, American comic actor, filmmaker, producer, writer, and genius, who died 1 February 1966.
Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton’s “extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, [when] he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.”
Orson Welles stated that Keaton’s “The General” is “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”
Greeting February with Poetry – Part IV of VII: Robert Pack
“Dreaming time has reversed, I watch drowned snow
Appear to lift up from the lake;
Reshaping magnified, each risen flake
Looms in the air, deliberate and slow,
Allowing me to let your picture form and wake
Astonished that you have returned to go
To watch me watch drowned snow lift from the lake.
Dreaming time has reversed—and you,
Your red cheeks radiant against the wind,
Are gliding toward me on the ice into
A frame of glided twilight—I
Again awaken from your being gone to find
Your gloved hands covering your lips’ good-bye
So you can watch me watch uplifted snow
As if your absence now concluded long ago.”
Greeting February with Prose – Part III of III: William Shakespeare
“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
Greeting February with Art – Part V of VII: Ted Papalous
Greeting February with Poetry – Part V of VII: Margaret Atwood
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.
Greeting February with Song – Part III of III: Foo Fighters, “February Stars”
Greeting February with Poetry – Part VI of VII: Paiute Tribe
“Late Winter Song”
“Loud are the thunder drums in the tents of the mountains.
Oh, long, long
Have we eaten chia seeds
and dried deer’s flesh of the summer killing.
We are tired of our huts
and the smoky smell of our clothing.
We are sick with the desire for the sun
And the grass on the mountain.”
Greeting February with Art – Part VI of VII: Maya Eventov
“I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.
Greeting February with Art – Part VII of VII: A. Y. Jackson
Welcoming February – Part II of II
Below – “February Landscape,” by Kay Smith.