Brown column for Feb. 8, 2004

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2004

Poet T.S. Eliot described April as the cruelest month. I don’t know how he missed February.

We usually are carried through December on the crest of holiday excitement, but the wave subsides as January runs out. Winter quickly loses whatever charm it held.

February invites you to make plans, and then it dashes them. One day you are confident that spring is right around the corner and harbor thoughts about getting the flower beds in shape. The next day you are convinced that winter will never end.

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Spring is, in fact, not very far away (regardless of what the groundhog did or did not do), but the gray days lull us into thinking that we have plenty of time to cross all the

items off our to do list before the warming earth gives birth to an entirely new crop of chores.

It gets light too late and dark too early. During much of the year, the lightening sky fills our bedroom with light to rouse us from sleep. When we arise in winter, though, dawn is a dim promise without enough conviction to tug us awake. We are regulated not by the rising and the setting of the sun but by the clock, and we have learned from experience that turning on the alarm is a necessity. By February, it is tiresome to be dragged into consciousness with darkness still lurking outside the window.

When daylight finally does arrive, it does not linger. It is barely past lunch time when the sun seems to run out of brightness and the shadows lengthen. Its day is nearly over, even if ours is not.

The winds of March may make our heart a dancer, but the winds of February just make us grumpy. It even seems cosmically appropriate that with the state’s dim economic picture the Legislature is meeting this month.

The month has a way of warping our judgment and weakening our resolve. We have to remind ourselves that every day is a gift to be treasured, even gloomy February days.

And the month is not entirely without merit.

All but the stubbornest of leaves have been stripped from the trees, so that the driveway and decks are at last relatively clear. Birds flocking to the feeder while the squirrel races up and down the limb trying to solve the problem of getting to the feed bring a smile. Garden catalogs and cruise line brochures arouse daydreams. Soon the power company will begin raising the water level on Lake Martin, confirming that winter is nearly over, and our spirits will rise with it.

And the month – even with an extra day tacked on – is the shortest of the year.

Still, it’s difficult to come up with many positives about February. Even the writers and poets have difficulty finding anything lyrical to say.

As author Joseph Wood Krutch noted, “The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”

Similar sentiments could be expressed about Alabama’s February, too.

Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at

(c)2004 William B. Brown