“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; … I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick
November causes no grimness about my mouth, nor does November elicit damp, drizzly emotions to well up in my soul. I like November. Autumn weather typically offers cool temperatures without the bitter cold I know will soon follow. November offers a pleasant transition, a time to finish harvest, a time to be thankful, and a time to rest from a busy year. No, November brings no desire for escape to the seashore.
It’s February that gets my goat. I may have mentioned this before — I do not like February. It’s only saving grace is its brevity. Oh, and Valentine’s Day, I suppose.
But February does offer another transition—a bridge from icy winter to the early days of spring, promising warmer temperatures, cherry blossoms, and baseball. It promises much but delivers little. February typically offers several days of mild weather, spring-like interludes that make me pine for April but that dissipate into another spate of bitter cold that reminds me that spring remains an ephemeral aspiration.
So I look for solace.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly [February] in my soul; I account it high time to get …” back on a farm as soon as my pickup truck will take me there.
Consequently, during the second week of February, I found myself heading west, hoping to find a farmer somewhere along the Mississippi Delta between Jackson and Memphis, Tenn. No white whales for me, no year-long voyages on sailing ships. A productive day talking to a successful farmer, an opportunity to walk through a field — even one at rest, showing a few of last season’s cotton stalks, some corn cobs littering the soil, a winter cover crop carpeting the row middles — and a few minutes to snap a photo or two is enough to lift the burden of February from my tortured psyche.
My boots got muddy. I shivered in the 33-degree weather, barely influenced by a weak winter sun, and made more convincing by a stiff breeze. I hardly noticed. Soil, soggy from an overnight rain, squished underfoot, a hopeful sign for the coming planting season, offering promise for at least a good start to another crop year.
I left the farm with a smile on my face, which was kept in place by other farmsteads along my route, some fallowed for the winter, others green with winter wheat, and some still showing remnants of last fall’s harvest.
Winter may persist well into March. But for a few days I am unburdened of the February in my soul.