Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Downtime

Now here we are, two-thirds of the way through the longest month of the year

The Clarion decided not to publish on the holiday Sundays so I wasn’t here to offer you two turtle doves on Dec. 26 but the holiday continued on. Some groups acknowledged Twelfth Night to commemorate Epiphany and our Russian Orthodox neighbors celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7. That marked the traditional end to the Christmas season. And so we began settling in to wait out January.

Now here we are, two-thirds of the way through the longest month of the year. It is still relentlessly dark and has been very cold, sometimes windy and rainy and icy. We’ve had it all, but after the New Year’s holiday, nothing to celebrate until mid-February. Time to hunker down, find a good book and unwind from the just-past holidays. Maybe try a new recipe, learn to play the guitar or (heaven forbid) organize your closet.

But we are gaining daylight and in 10 days it will be Groundhog Day (or Candlemas) — the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Traditionally, if the groundhog sees his shadow it heralds six more weeks of winter. That’s good news for us, but apparently in milder climes it heralds an early spring if it is cloudy or overcast on Feb. 2.

Like other seasonal observances, Candlemas/Groundhog Day is derived from a pagan festival: Imbolc; marking the beginning of lambing season, and in climates more moderate than ours, trees budding and sap running. Like most pagan celebrations, the exact date is dependent on the phase of the moon, so the holiday can occur anytime within four or five days. But as the church took over, fixed dates became the rule except for Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring).

Digression: It occurred to me as I was reading about Imbolc that Samhain, or Halloween to us, is about halfway between fall equinox and winter solstice, and was (is) basically the celebration of an ending, with harvest being over and winter setting in. Those pagans! They didn’t need a calendar. Just count the sunrises and watch the moon! (I wonder if the fish monitors have thought of that!)

But, back to February! Things come to life again here in February! The Winter Olympics start on Feb. 4. Alaska is well-represented with skiers, both men’s and women’s, a mixed doubles curling team from Fairbanks, maybe a snowboarder, and a Canadian men’s figure skater who lives and trains in Anchorage.

Then the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, a week later than traditionally. I don’t watch much football, but many of my friends do so I am aware of the hoopla and excitement. Besides, it plays havoc with the T.V. schedule for a few days with pre- and post- stuff. I hope it doesn’t interrupt watching the Olympics.

Valentine’s Day comes next. It’s not usually a really big celebration except in the stores, which started gearing up for it right after the Christmas decorations were down. Santa Claus and the reindeer replaced with hearts and cupid. I don’t know if the school kids make a Valentine’s box for the classroom anymore, and carefully select a card for each classmate. I remember how I agonized over each selection. Do the schools even take the time to do that anymore?

Gardeners will begin starting seeds for their greenhouses and plotting garden spots on paper or in their minds hoping that inevitable late snow storm around Easter time is just a flurry. Easter is April 17 this year, so it could happen.

And the Alaska Legislature just went into session! Because of redistricting, all but one of Alaska’s legislators is up for reelection so they will be politicking this year. That may get them out of Juneau quicker than last session. Let’s hope they accomplish a little more.

And of course, national POLITICS. 2022 will be a major election period. Every Representative is up for reelection, plus 34 senators, including ours, and various governors. The Left will continue to beat a dead horse while the Right tries to revive it. Those of us watching from the cheap seats just want them to get on with the game, maybe repair an interstate somewhere? Quell a riot, perhaps? Do something to alleviate the shipping problems and the massive inflation?

But this is still January. We’re gaining around five minutes of daylight a day, and there is still a week of the longest month left. Time to finish that book, add a chapter to the novel you started to write in 1990, even join the exercise class you resolved on Jan. 1 to take advantage of. Lots of time to reflect on 2021 and anticipate 2022. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype! (or not!!) Happy New Year!

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