February

This blog entry started in a funny way. I saw this commercial, and it was weirdly affecting. It made me feel a little less lonely and a little more lonely, and a little more cold and a little more warm…it also made me realize that I’ve begun to massively overthink small bits of media.

In fact, it sent me to Wikipedia to look up the month of February. The root word is Latin: februum. It means purification. Ouch. Other historical names for it include the Finnish helmikuu, meaning “month of the pearl,” and two Old English terms, Kalemonath, after cabbage, and Solmonath, meaning “mud month.”

A couple weeks ago in Am Lit we read a Robert Frost poem called “Two Tramps in Mud Time.” We’ve had a mild winter here, so in some ways, it is already mud time. And though I love to quote Hopkins’ line about “dearest freshness deep down things,” I’m having a hard time seeing the life beneath. There are nights when the mudflats of my heart are interminable, refusing to even end at some horizon.

(I’m floundering safely in imagery. I can’t even express myself without borrowing a whole month to lean upon. Sometimes I just can’t find the words—I was reprimanded in class the other day for describing a love story as “nice.” Oh, how the little writer in me has fallen…)

I hope, I believe, that I simply can’t see the end of it because I’m underneath it right now. This bloated February is my ceiling.

Yeats, who is, perhaps, not the ideal poet to cling to in my distress, says that “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”–truer word was never spoken, but for this: “The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” (Isaiah 35:7)

There are times when that is easy to believe, and then there are times when just the suggestion, applied to my heart, is incredible. Why is abundance so hard? Isaiah 55:1 calls “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Why is it so difficult to come?

Emily lent me a book the other day called One Thousand Gifts, of which some of you have probably heard. In the very first chapter the author remembers the nation of Israel, wandering in the desert. “For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna—a substance whose name literally means ‘What is it?’ Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery.”

Yesterday, I went to church twice, and took communion twice. I ate the mystery in the morning, and again in the evening. It was wonderful. I filled my soul with “the inexplicable.” And I simply don’t understand. His death for my life. My life. And what is that, pray tell?

On Wednesday, I got a bit of news which forced me to let go of my last shred of self-assurance, my last sacred imaginative territory. Which was good. I was unexpectedly relieved. It’s gone. I’ve been holding onto it for years, and more suddenly than I’d expected, it’s simply no longer allowed me. Oh, but it’s frightening. I’m left alone with only me. February, my blank mudflat heart, and me, awash in freedom.

So here, a prayer for my muddy heart and for yours, is a devotion by Charles Spurgeon that my 12th grade English teacher once read to us: “Come in, O strong and deep love of Jesus, like the sea at the flood in spring tides, cover all my powers, drown all my sins, wash out all my cares, lift up my earth-bound soul, and float it right up to my Lord’s feet, and there let me lie, a poor broken shell, washed up by His love, having no virtue or value; and only venturing to whisper to Him that if He will put His ear to me, He will hear within my heart faint echoes of the vast waves of His own love which have brought me where it is my delight to lie, even at His feet forever.”

3 thoughts on “February

  1. Eliot said that “April is the cruelest month,” but you make a good case for February.

    And here’s Herbert on the heart’s seasons in “The Flower”: “These are thy wonders, Lord of power, / Killing and quickening, Bringing down to hell and up to heaven in an hour; / Making a chiming of a passing-bell. / We say amiss, / This or that is: / Thy word is all, if we could spell.”

    Love,

    Dad

  2. Pingback: Three Memories for the Mid-Way Point | Alice with Paper

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