For as long as I can remember I’ve hated the month of February.
February is when winter gets long. Gets mean. Gets on my nerves.
Then about 10 years ago, I decided I also hate January.
January is when the joyous holiday cheer of Christmas and New Year’s wears off and leaves us feeling empty and wanting. January is when the decorations come down and the anxiety of winter goes up.
January is also when all that’s left is cold and snow and the realization that February is lurking with its brass knuckles in the gray and gloomy distance.
Now, with the arrival of a new month, I’m beginning to believe I might hate March, too.
Do you know what happens when people decide they hate January, February and March? They move to Florida. Or Arizona.
I never believed I would consider becoming a snowbird, one of those Midwesterners who packs up and heads in search of warmer, sunnier weather at least until the ice and snow have disappeared for good. And as of this moment, I’m still holding out, determined to tough out one more month of unpredictable weather, an extension of the bleary overcast and the realization that each March we get sucker punched with one or two more blizzards.
Another reason I’m pushing away from the entire snowbird concept is one more thing I hate. I hate Florida.
In nearly 45 years of sharing my feelings in print, there have been very few times when I’ve confessed to hating anything. Liver. I hate liver, although I’ve learned to simply ignore it on any menu.
I used to hate Brussels sprouts, but now I love those little green jewels, especially when roasted with bacon and pecans.
But now, in a matter of a few paragraphs, I’ve confessed to hating three entire months and one entire state. And unlike liver, I’ve yet to figure out how to simply ignore ordering icy roads or a daytime high temperature of 6.
Hating Florida isn’t fair. I’ve been there a number of times and had a few good experiences. It just always seems to rain in the afternoons and when it isn’t stifling hot, it’s stifling hot and humid.
Strange, because a number of friends from Decatur and Central Illinois have found a rollicking good time in Florida and I imagine there’s a restaurant or bar in the Marco Island area that is largely populated by Central Illinois transplants laughing and singing and celebrating that they’re not in Decatur during January, February or March.
I’ve always wanted to share a cocktail with those happy souls.
Griping about winter has become a popular sport many people partake in and different folks have different things to complain about.
Some would gripe about the snow. Others the slippery ice. No one seems to enjoy the bitter cold, especially when the temperature dips into the single digits. Driving can be hazardous and Central Illinois seems to lead the world in pot holes that can swallow a small sedan.
One week the ground is frozen solid. The next week it’s a quagmire of mud.
But for me, the nagging nature of winter is the extended lack of sunlight. And that’s when I realize the accumulation of winter has created this claustrophobia we call cabin fever.
Unable to get outdoors, the lawn sleeping dormant and brown and the garden frozen and lifeless, winter creates an isolation that can’t be satisfied by merely walking from the car to a store or across a slushy parking lot.
That’s a poor substitute for the green outdoors we’ll enjoy once spring dares to arrive, tulips brave the final frosts and we can sweep off our decks, gas up our mowers and resume taking long walks with our dogs.
I bought a light box two years ago, hoping a daily artificial blast of light would trigger a chemical reaction in my brain, fooling me into believing sunshine had found the inside of our home.
I give it mixed reviews. In the end, though, cabin fever continues to build until that first 60-degree, sun-splashed day.
I’m sure some might say the real problem is the plight of a person growing older, no longer willing to roll up his sleeves and fight winter head-on. That could be true, but this winter seems to have started earlier and lasted longer.
Maybe that’s old age. But maybe it’s just a greater anticipation for the things that have come to matter more.
I can’t wait to get back in my garden.