I’ve been waiting since August for February. That fact is surprising considering that I live in the Pacific Northwest where winter is dark until after breakfast and dusk comes well before dinnertime. And now it’s more than ten days into February and the days are getting longer and yet, the darkness still hovers over an early supper.
February, where I live, is rainy and grey, but I’ve seen evidence that something is coming that I can’t quite see, yet…
On August 10 in 2021, I was reading the novel, Olive, Again, the sequel to Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. I have read most of Strout’s novels because she creates people that we might not be friends with in real life, but we know them. And Elizabeth Strout makes us love them in a Jesus kind of way—if I can say that. Seeing the inside of them, with all their, and our own, inconsistencies.
I wrote down a few paragraphs in my notebook that I wanted to remember. It was about February.
A few years ago, folk singer Carrie Newcomer wrote a song, The Beautiful, Not Yet, in which she described this time of year as a “quickening.” Carrie said we live our lives “between then and soon, right here and now, in the beautiful not yet.” I used to listen to the song over and over at that disappointing time in my life to give hope for a resolution to changes and chances that were beyond my control. That was February, too.
Olive, Again is 13 short stories that are about Olive and people in her small town in Maine that she affects in some way. One of those stories is about Cindy, who was a student in teacher Olive’s high school math class many years before. Olive visits Cindy, whose cancer in midlife has advanced, and they quietly watch the sun go down together on the February day.
Cindy, thinking over her life that is coming to an end, is remembering her longing to be a writer when she was younger. Strout writes Cindy’s surprising hope, relived at this moment.
What she would have written about was the light in February. How it changed the way the world looked. People complained about February; it was cold and snowy and often times wet and damp and people were ready for spring. But for Cindy the light of the month had always been like a secret, and it remained as a secret even now.
Because in February, the days were really getting longer and you could see it, if you really looked. You could see how at the end of each day the world seemed cracked open and the extra light made its way across the stark trees and promised. It promised, that light, and what a thing it was. As Cindy lay on her bed she could see this even now, the gold of the last light opening the world.Olive, Again
My everyday life has changed quite a bit since February 2018, when I first heard Carrie’s song about the “beautiful, not yet.” And yet this February 2022, I need to expectantly pay attention to the quickening that precedes new light. In the last two years, my life has moved on and at the same time seems to have stalled.
To see the light in all the seemingly challenging circumstances of our lives, of my life right now; the dilemmas I face are not ones that hinder living abundantly. If I wasn’t concerned with these things, I’m certain there would be others that scurry in and take their place.
Really look, Cindy says, at the light—the goodness and the gloriousness that surround me. For me, I often discover something I didn’t know to look for up close.
Walking the dog last week, I saw two oystercatchers on the rocks that frame the sea. I’d never seen an oystercatcher close up. Actually, until a few months ago, I didn’t know there was such a bird. Even on this misty February day, the birds’ bright red beaks and sharp black bodies and pink legs filled the moment with delight.
That’s what I do; I miss the wonder that is right in front of me in my searching for an elusive something that I’m on the right track.
Cindy said you really have to look to see the world crack open. That extra light that seeps in in February is a promise, an opening to see my world with awe, wonder, and newness.