Sunday, February 1, 2015

Feed the Birds

The calendar page turns and Time continues its relentless march (to where?). Or to put it more gently, it’s another turn in the cycle, another point in the ever-circling ebbs and flows of welcomes and losses, of arrivals and departures. Two days ago, just as I received the news that my mother-in-law passed over, my daughter announced a baby boy in her belly. The land suffers from a January with no rain, and yet, the first plum blossoms have come to the trees outside the kitchen window.

February. A month so barren in the ancient Roman calendar that for a while (along with January) it had no name. When it was finally added in 713 BC, it was the last month. Ever wondered why the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th months of our current calendar are called September (7th), October (8th), November (9th), December (10th)? With the two nameless months, there used to only be 10 months. Then January and February were tacked on to the end. Until 450, when they shifted position to the first and second month— and no one bothered to rename the others.

While most of our months are named for gods (Janus, Mars, Aphrilus, Maia, Juno), emperors (Julius, Augustus) or numbers (see above), February was named for a purification ritual called Februa. In various Nordic countries, its name is related to ice or frost or the cutting of wood. It is the shortest month, always shares the same first day of the week with March and November, its last day with January and October— except on leap years. It is the time for kids to exchange those little heart candies and for Hallmark stock to rise, for the wealthier Californians to go skiing in honor of Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays. It is my wife’s birthday, same day as my colleague James’ birthday and two weeks after my colleague Sofia. It is still Black History Month, it hosts Groundhog’s Day and the Superbowl and according to Wikipedia, is National Bird-Feeding Month. In San Francisco, it is the time for plum blossoms. On my windowsill, daffodils are in bloom.

I will be at school for the full four weeks of February before my time off to travel and teach and re-earn the title of this blog. Feels good to keep riding on the momentum of the past five months, but after a workshop in Fresno yesterday with a small group of dedicated teachers, I remembered the pleasure and importance of teaching beyond the kids into my school to the teachers who will carry new material, ideas and practices to kids far and wide. Europe and Asia await me in March and April and I will be happy to oblige.

Meanwhile, I gotta go feed the birds.

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