Rachel’s Letter – February 2016
“I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting, and the nights were long and cold and scary, can we live through February?”
One of my favourite musicians is an American folk artist called Dar Williams. If you don’t know her work, she’s well worth digging out. She writes quite beautifully about
growing up, love, gender and politics and many other things. One of her most striking songs is called ‘February’, from which the quote above is taken.
Ostensibly it’s about a relationship going through a very tricky ‘season’. A couple seem to be falling apart and arguing after Christmas, and February becomes a metaphor for the ‘freezing up’ of the couple’s feelings for each other.
As a February child, I’m always alert to metaphors and songs about it. It is the shortest month and yet, for some people, it can feel like it drags on forever. Often it’s even colder and more unpleasant than January. Winter often reaches a peak in February.
Yet, while February is most definitely still winter, it is often during that month we get a first glimpse of crocuses and other spring flowers. We often discover that the very worst point in the year is also its turning into the promise of spring. February once again signals the start of the discipline of Lent. Ash Wednesday falls on February 10th this year and, as we rehearse our repentence and mark ourselves in ash with the sign of the cross, we commit ourselves to a time of self-examination and rigour which is without parallel in the rest of the Church’s year. Yet, if this is a time of testing, it already gestures towards the extraordinary events of the Easter Event – Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day – that captures the heart of our faith. For in the midst of death and corruption we are caught up in God’s glorious invitation to new life and resurrection.
February, then, is a remarkable month. It can both be a time of fierce cold and unpleasantness, but also holds within it the promise of the new season to come. When Lent falls within it (which is as often as not) the sharpness of the weather acts as a powerful reminder of the demands of prayer. At the same time as we catch glimpses of spring flowers we see, unfurling before our eyes, the promise that lies in Easter.
I hope, then, that this February is a time for reflection. That it’s a time for keeping warm. And, if it’s your thing, it’s time for getting outside and taking some wintry walks. I also hope it’s a time for preparation, not only for the opening out of the new year into spring, but, more significantly, for the promise
of Easter. May you catch glimpses of glory in the ice and fog and in the challenge of prayer.
In the depths of winter it can seem as if we’ve forgotten what new life can feel like. Yet, new life is there, waiting for us. In that spirit, I’ll leave you this month with a few more words from Dar William’s song ‘February’:
“And February was so long that it lasted into March,
And found us walking a path alone together.
You stopped and pointed and you said, “That’s a crocus.”
And I said, “What’s a crocus?” And you said, “It’s a flower.”
I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”
You said, “I still love you.””