Disgruntling February


By James McGuire

Contributing columnist

“February is a most disgruntling month!” said the elderly lady who runs the thrift shop.

Which I initially thought was an odd turn of phrase, even though I understood exactly what she meant. However, upon further reflection, I realized it was the perfect descriptive word…February just might be the most ‘disgruntling’ month of the entire year.

I like to visit her little store regularly to see what old book or discarded treasure I can spot lurking amid the dust and clutter. As I pawed through several trays containing kitchen utensils and flatware, we exchanged thoughts on the current spell of unseasonably mild weather— speculating whether or not it could possibly continue.

“Well,” I said, “I’ve recently heard several forecasters say our region’s seasonal weather pattern seems to be six weeks premature this year—that conditions we typically see in late-March are occurring early.”

“So they believe we’ve already seen winter’s worst?” She asked, hopeful, then wistfully added: “I sure hope they’re right. These past few days have been absolutely wonderful.”

“Me, too,” I confessed. “I’m pretty encouraged.”

An understatement, actually.

After January’s extended attempt to turn us all into popsicles, delivering a bone-numbing stretch of single-digit temperatures, this run of unseasonably mild weather has been both a genuine relief and a life-changing pleasure!

I no longer have to wear my expedition-grade down parka just to survive a hurried scurry across the grocery store’s parking lot. Or wake up at 3 a.m. to worry about whether the ready firewood stack is big enough to keep us warm until spring.

“I hope it stays this way from here on out,” I said.

Moving from the utensils to a long shelf of glassware, I began picking carefully among rows of cups and glasses.

“Of course,” I added, “according to the calendar and almanac, winter still has almost six weeks to go—at least officially.”

The shopkeeper lady sighed. “Yes, indeed. “And I still remember how my mother always used to say February was a month that ‘tries the patience.’”

“It’s trying mine, for sure!” I agreed, chuckling. “But if spring wants to come early this year, I’ll welcome it with open arms!”

A rather fetching oversized purple coffee mug caught my fancy. It was the same vibrant hue as the crocus I hoped would soon emerge and bloom along my riverside cottage’s south-facing stone wall.

I sat the mug aside for purchase and moved on to a bin of hand tools to search for a hatchet.

“My grandparents lived up the street,” I told her. “Grandpa said ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride!’ I reckon that means pretty much the same thing…that dreaming and hoping for something won’t make it so.”

The elderly shopkeeper lady sighed.

“That’s so true,” the shopkeeper lady said. “You’ve got to work to make things happen. There’s nothing we can do about the weather—but I can hardly stand the thought that after these lovely warmer days, we might have to face near-zero temperatures or sleet and snow!”

My feelings exactly, I told her, shrugging. “The longer this mild spell continues, the more I want it to stay around!” Then mumbled some nonsense about seasonal capriciousness.

Later, as I paid for my purchases, she smiled. “What’s wrong with this month?” she asked. “Or is it just us?”

I just shook my head. “I dunno,” I said.

Yet later, after thinking about it awhile, I’ve come to suspect the answer is February so often disappoints because our hearts and heads just aren’t in it…especially not when considered from the perspective of a mild spell.

Winters in Ohio aren’t always brutal. History tells us Februarys hereabouts can go either way. Some years there’s scarcely any snow; other winters seem more fitting for North Dakota!

But with the slew of holidays long gone, and the first month of the new year now completed, we’ve foolishly set our sights on spring. Not that what we want matters—we’re not in the driver’s seat. We have no control over future weather. Spring will get here in its own good time—early or late.

Theories and educated presumptions from the weather pundits are still speculations—guesses—and their track record at long-range prognostication is not exactly infallible.

Who knows what weather February and March will yet decide to deliver?

Moreover, there’s a niggling concern on my part that too much talk and supposition—too much theorizing, hypothesizing, and conjecture, and an eager desire to write off winter prematurely—are apt to be misconstrued by the weather gods as a challenge.

The last thing I want to do is jinx this most appreciated clement weather blessing and cause winter to reemphasize its fierce sovereignty!

Still, I gotta say, I’m really delighted by the way disgruntling February’s weather is going!

At least so far…

Reach the writer at [email protected]

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