One of my side jobs, one that is especially financially important during the cash doldrums of January through March, is working as an event server at Middlebury College where during the month of February they welcome a small class of first year students, "febs". Space has been freed by other students gone overseas for study abroad and suddenly a new group of students needs orientation, which means a week of special events requiring a server.
At this time of year, I'm grasping for any sense of newness, growth, or small glory. People come into Tandem on Friday mornings saying they have just come in from skiing or are picking up snacks as they head off to the mountain for a day in the snow; sounds glorious and GOOD, but THAT IS NOT ME. I'm inside ordering strawberry plants, lounging in the early morning hours warmed by a space heater in my bedroom where the only sounds are a small piece of black locust falling onto the roof and Fourtet's New Energy album on repeat. And citrus, that's another winter delight, scoring the rind of a bitter orange with my thumbnail and bringing the fruit to my nose. Or even more mundane, being the one who is home when the mail comes. I sort the envelopes and magazines as I walk back to the house, making the big decisions on which mail order catalogs to dump straight into recycling. Oh, and this time of year of year, there are a few more chances to sync calendars and build a dinner with five friends that lights up a 6 pm sunset.
Amy and I manage a walk sometimes in the afternoon during the months of January - June. Then all hell breaks loose, just about the same time the very first Prelude raspberries ripen. Suddenly there is no time for us, only time for fruit and sleep. But when we walk we walk at different paces. I walk fast, hoping to raise my heartbeat and Amy moves at a pace that allows her to study animal prints in the snow or pull berries off the juniper tree. I circle back. We make a game of it as I run ahead and run back to her and then back down into the field's fold to take a picture.
Winter means getting away. The dream is to one day financially reach the point where we can be away mid February through mid March. The idea would be to finish the preservation cycle during this week in February with marmalades made from Bergamot and Seville Oranges, which arrive to here around the last week of January. We would come back in time to prep for the growing season. Amy and I both have strong familial and emotional connections to the West coast. Amy grew up in Montana but found her community in Seattle. I got my first taste of adulthood--and its education--while living in Los Angeles. I found my professional focus when I met Amy in the Northwest. Home in its gnarly heart(iness) is here in Vermont, but maintaining a connection to the west feels vital for making life back East work. Last year we spent several weeks visiting friends in Seattle, but this year only I went out west, spending several days in San Francisco as part of participating in the Good Food Mercantile. I got to brush up against the barest of a visual recharge, seeing ultraviolet bougainvillea against the matte city sky, remembering how I used to feel lonely among the southwest architecture of stucco houses, but gradually shed my New England training for wood siding and Cape Cod houses until I even loved the summer, no-rain-grime caught in the hummocks of the stucco crags. A couple mornings later, I slept in a room with no shades allowing the lazy-to-an-east-coaster-sunrise to do its full work on my body. I feel like I can really talk to that side of the sun. Take your time. I'm going to snooze until you make the room so hot I have to get up and get a glass of water.
Visiting my friend Kim has evolved in a yearly ritual. This visit and the chance moments where friends from another space and time suddenly are in my space and time--like seeing Hope from college during an afternoon in Pescadero or catching Jason for two days after another 6 year increment--this is one of my favorite parts of aging; you never know what or who will stick with you. It makes the already lived past and the future more exciting.
February, you are good too.
I am home more at this time of year than at any time and there is no other reason to be back here in Vermont than the chance to be on this land, thinking/working about what do with it that honors (slowly re plant the orchard, but cook with the apples that are left from my father's efforts) and departs (don't worry about planting in straight rows) from what has been, but most important? this chance to be with my mother as we live separately, but side by side in this house.