February Almanac

The Snow Moon

Perhaps no poem paints a more fitting portrait of this time of year than Thomas Hardy’s classic verse about a “blast-beruffled” bird whose joyful song pierces the silence of a dark and desolate eve like an arrow through autumn’s last apple.

Read: February is here. Behold the first glorious explosion of golden daffodils.

Although “Darkling Thrush” is set at the cusp of a new year (and century), its haunting image of “tangled bine-stems” slicing the sky “like strings of broken lyres” invokes, at least for this nature lover, the bleakest yet most beautiful days of winter. Since the heaviest snows tend to fall this month, the full moon on Friday, Feb. 10, has long been called the full snow moon. The Cherokee called it the bone moon because, well, food was so scarce that supper was often marrow soup.

Speaking of soup, now’s time for root vegetable stews and chowders thick with heavy cream and gold potatoes. Make enough and you can eat from it all week — a quick and hearty fix after a cold evening spent pruning the rose bush and deadheading pansies. Through the kitchen window, a brown thrasher gently swings on the suet feeder before disappearing with twilight. It’s cold, but daylight is stretching out a little further every day. The soup simmers on the stovetop. Spring will be here soon.

 A Grimm Fellow

Wilhelm Grimm, younger of the Brothers Grimm, was born Feb. 24, 1786, in Hessen, Germany. Perhaps that’s why National Tell a Fairy Tale Day falls just two days later, on Sunday, Feb. 26. In addition to publishing a hefty collection of folk tales — “Hänsel and Gretel,” “Der Froschkönig” (“The Frog Prince”), “Dornröschen” (Sleeping Beauty), “Schneewittchen” (“Snow White”), and on and on — the brothers started writing a definitive German dictionary in 1838, but never did get around to finishing it. Add a little extra magic to this month of love by spinning a tale about fairies or mermaids, or, in the spirit of this bleak wintry season, perhaps something a bit darker. Like the one where the evil stepsisters cut off their toes to make the glass slipper fit.

February, a form

Pale-vestured, wildly fair,—

One of the North Wind’s daughters,

With icicles in her hair.

– Edgar Fawcett, “The Masque of Months” (1878)

Say it with Flowers

Violet and primrose are the birth flowers of February. The old folk poem calls the flower blue, but violets bloom mauve, yellow and white, too. Gift a lover a violet on Valentine’s Day and they’ll read: I’ll always be true. As for the primrose, a pale yellow perennial that thrives in cool woodland glades, the message crackles like an ardent fire:
I can’t live without you.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Nor hath love’s mind of any judgment taste;

Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.

And therefore is love said to be a child

Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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