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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

The straits of February


It's here again, one of the more worrisome days of the year. February 1 surprises me every year. I think it should still be January, a month that starts slowly and some of us never quite get up to speed as the month progresses.

In fact, almost everyone I know is completely awash in work, household chores and the other things that don't qualify as making life worth living.

My problem with the start of February is linked to my childhood. It arrived with a lot of odd things that you were supposed to remember and pay attention to. One of them was the old groundhog business - will he pop his head out of his hole or won't he? Now we have to worry if anyone has mentioned global warming to him.

And I was never very sure what groundhogs looked like. In Iowa, we had gophers and chipmunks and squirrels and they all seemed related. Did they live underground when they weren't digging trenches under the lawn or flying around in treetops? I still don't know.

Then there was St. Blaise, who has gone out of fashion, I think, but early in February we'd trudge in through the cold damp Iowa streets and into the classroom where wool mittens steamed and cooked on radiators - and someone would make us bundle up and march out again. We walked over to the nearby church and filed in, first thing in the morning, to get two candles crossed against our throats and pray to St. Blaise, the patron saint of, hmm, saint of? At this point I would get worried again. Why would you have a saint to protect you from sore throats, tonsillitis and strep? He didn't get a very interesting job on the saintly ladder, it seemed to me. He was also not good at it. My throat acted as a kind of sink to every bug going around. I thought he needed better tools than long white candles.

February was something that came between Christmas and kite-flying, a March ritual. Teachers expected you to pay attention in school. Pencils were sharpened and resharpened, but February did not seem to go any faster.

The straits of February were a place where you sailed slowly. Meanwhile, down in New Orleans, that wild place, they got to dress up and go crazy.

We had sleds but not skis. We had St. Blaise, but not Mardi Gras. We had plenty of time for dreaming about where we might go when we grew up. Chicago sounded pretty good.

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