The month began with the flat, muted light of a day that will not be bad, but is rarely as good as it could be. The sun that is often an orange ball as it emerges from the ocean slipped quietly up behind a wall of blue, then lighted a bit of the sky with a slice of coral.
It was one of those moments we have on Block Island when the sky is open and the sea wide, and for a moment the reality before us has the look of a greeting card or the cover of a church bulletin — just a little too perfect, the colors just a little too precise to be real.
And yet there it was, more extraordinary for the view from the window where I usually see the sun rise this time of year: a line, crossing the yard and the pond, which lay flat and still in the early calm, then the bank lot and the ocean running out to the smudged horizon and sky.
It was the same last night — or late afternoon, but glory of glories, closer to six than five — when the sky was clear, sliding from the slightest blue of the last light of day to the pale illumination of half a moon. It was what I always think of as a calendar image, the maple branches black, the first stars shining brightly white.
It is February and the promise of a sun rising before 7 a.m. and setting after 5 p.m. has been realized. The world feels a very different place than it did a month ago. There are 44 more minutes of daylight than there were when we tumbled into the new year, sure the harsh winter we had so well evaded, once through the freak storm of late October, would arrive with the vengeance of energy pent up and denied release.
A full month of winter is behind us. We had, in its course, one day of snow — and that not so much that it closed my road. Another morning I awoke to the dim gray of these late sunsets, sat up in bed and heard my own voice saying “What the heck?!” It had snowed, again, a dusting that would be gone by afternoon’s close, but it was unexpected. The world was very beautiful, the boring leafless brush turned to white lace loomed in a random pattern.
It was the odd day the mainland was without snow, a reverse of the years when snow has fallen on the mainland or out to sea while we have sat in a protective golden sphere, untouched.
There were nights the wind rattled the windows and knocked the rangy forsythia brushes against the old shingles on the other side of the living room wall, and rain seemed to fall as soon as the biggest puddles were almost, but not quite, empty. Today, the beginning of a new month, was mild, not a heat wave but nonetheless tying a record by the almanac I have immediately at hand; today I noticed green shoots, iris growing up out of the tangle of brown leaves and grasses that are my poorly tended flowers beds, irises reaching for the sun.
It happens many years, I have a photo my mother took one winter day at least 25 years ago, when bright sun melted the ice and continued to shine for a few days. It is a faded old Polaroid, with spots of yellow among scant green leaves, forsythia trying to bloom on the December 28.
It is February, month of blizzards and bright, cold sunlight. When people talk of their vacations in sunny climes I remember ours, when we were kids, when we were lucky if we got to the mainland, to Rhode Island or Massachusetts for a few days. Walking around the island one day was our big adventure.
It is still mild, with no forecast for dramatically tumbling temperatures. There has been to January something fragile, needing reassurance. So many days it seems we feel we have to address each other with a comment on the beautiful weather, as if speaking aloud of it, confirming it, give it a staying power. January mild has to it a tentative feeling, all carried by a gossamer wing and an atheistic prayer.
It is February, the best part of winter. There is too much of the season yet to come in January, and March, pretender to spring, is just a horrid, horrid time. Three years out of four — excepting that odd centennial year divisible by 400 — it is neat month, a precise package of four weeks, and even with the addition of that calendar-balancing day, it is still the shortest.
Clearly, the calendar was set by powers living above the equator; I cannot imagine how we would react were three days sliced from the heart of July or August. By February I do not have to think about the sunrise and sunset; my weather obsession [we thought it so odd that my nephew was obsessed with weather and the calendar when he was a very little boy, now it seems odd that we thought it odd] turns to the division of the subdivision of the year and, as always, I wonder why we do not have twelve 28-day months and one with 29.
It is mild, but it is winter by the lights I see from my kitchen window, the harbor across the water. There are no long strings of white marking hotel porches, none of the sparkling glow of an early August night.
The moon is waxing gibbous and is brighter tonight than last, the shadows stronger, the landscape defined if colorless. It is February, month of the Full Snow or Full Hunger Moon, but it has the mystical quality that could light the way for any creature, January’s Wolf more than the multiple deer and single roaming cow I know to be there.