After I make my slow, ankle-wrapped way around the library where I work, and especially if I’ve added in a minor errand or made my way downstairs to find a box and then some packing material to mail a game to Eleanor (who got a tattoo and then a staph infection and had to go to urgent care in what was, for me, the middle of the night last night), I have to go lie down on the bed and put my ankle up on a pillow so it’s above my heart. I’ve been reading a lot—murder mysteries from the library mixed in with my usual fare—but I’ve also been taking unplanned late-afternoon catnaps under the spare comforter with Pippin or Tristan, something they find quite acceptable and I find disconcerting. I’m not a napper. I don’t like to nap.
It’s certainly giving me more patience with February, though. That, and the fact that we haven’t had a lot of ice and snow that stick around and make everything slick, so even with my sprained ankle, it’s not as hard to walk around outside as it is some years.
The birds and squirrels continue to feast on the birdseed I’ve been decorating our Christmas tree with. It is still just outside the back door on the deck, looking festive and green, often covered with small birds like decorations. The cats sometimes run the squirrels off, but one squirrel at least will not quit trying to build a nest in our gutter. We have been cleaning out this nest about once a week since August, but he will not be discouraged. Ron has found a way to wire in a squirrel guard so that he can’t throw it out, as he did the first few times he found it in there, but he still manages to move it aside enough to get his mud plug built and start tossing leaves on top of it. Then Ron goes out, gets on the ladder, takes the guttering apart, and throws all the mud and leaves on the deck for him to begin again with the next week.
Here is Margaret Atwood’s poem about February:
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.
I think her “lust for French fries” is a longing for summery food, which also strikes me this time of year.
I think it’s about time for a plate of devilled eggs.
A sight of the sun.
Something green besides the Christmas tree.
Smells that do not come from inside the house.
Birdsong at dawn.
Movements at the edge of vision (that don’t turn out to be a disappearing cat’s tail or a piece of paper fluttering in the forced-air furnace).
What do you think it’s about time for?