February. Again.

By Cornelia Read

I don’t know if I mentioned this when I was whining about February LAST year, but when I was a child in Carmel, California,

I invented a game which was a great hit among the neighborhood children. It was called “Winter.” We would wander around the quasi-canyon in my back yard pretending it was snowing, that we had nothing to eat, and that we were–of course–orphans.

We usually did this while wrapped in my mother’s picnic blanket and a number of beach towels, pretending to shiver pathetically. Since I’d invented the game, I got to be the one who would carve chunks of dry rot out of the old stump under our clothesline. This was the main ingredient in what I called “stew,” which was basically a pot full of creek water and… well… chunks of dry rot. Which we would then pretend to eat. Slowly, in order to stretch it out and assuage our faux hunger.

It was important to make only a parsimonious amount, so we could pretend to suffer adequately. When we were feeling particularly melodramatic, we would call the contents of the pot “gruel.” Same basic recipe, just more creek water and fewer stump chunks. Amazingly enough, not a one of us had yet discovered Edward Gorey.

All of this to say that as a person raised for the most part in California and Hawaii, I vastly prefer my romanticization of winter from afar to the actual fucking season. To which you would be perfectly justified in replying, “well, DUH, Cornelia.”

And all of that to say that I basically suck at winter. Okay, HUGELY suck at winter. Which is my only excuse for totally spacing this blog two weeks ago. Even though I was in Florida at the time. Which of course compounds my guilt.

I did not, in fact, FORGET to blog. No, that would have been the obvious thing to do.

Instead, I wrote a blog post and posted it at The Lipstick Chronicles. On someone else’s day. And then headed back out on a circuitous chunk of road trip with my mother and totally forgot to check on comments at the other place. Which is luckily a place at which I blog with wonderful people equally as smart and fabulous as you fabulously brilliant people here, so somebody did me the favor of taking the post DOWN so I wouldn’t look like as much of an idiot as I am. Which is quite an idiot, as you might imagine.

So. February. I say we all need more gruel, though I would prefer to curl up under my sofa with a cake-mixing bowl (large) of warm gravy and a fifth of dark Haitian rum.

And just ignore everything until March first. That would be ideal.

And to compound the compounding, I didn’t fall asleep until three this morning, and… well… here we are. Thank you for being so patient with me. You guys are awesome.

And once again, dear ‘Ratis, I ask for your wisdom: How do you survive seasons of gruel–of the body, or of the soul? The woman with the brain of an ADD-raddled fruit fly would like to know.

26 thoughts on “February. Again.

  1. JD Rhoades

    Glad to see someone else hates winter as much as I do. But it's January that really gets me down. Here in NC, we usually manage to have at least a couple of warm days in late February that make it just barely possible to live through.

    "How do you survive seasons of gruel–of the body, or of the soul?"

    I drink heavily.

  2. Alafair Burke

    Yesterday was fabulous, and now we're being punished again. Sigh indeed. I am very spaced out in winter months as well. It's as if my brain thinks it can make the cold stop by ignoring the outside world.

  3. Cornelia Read

    Ah, Alafair. I am lucky enough to be in NYC at the moment, so got to enjoy yesterday way more than I would have five hours' drive to the north. And now I'm looking out at the rooftops and pretending it's still nice out.

  4. JT Ellison

    Cornelia, good to have you back ; )

    How do we survive? Lots of fires. A fire makes me happy, reminds me of childhood, and helps fight the nastiness outside.

  5. TerriMolina

    I was born and raised in Southeast Texas so winter there lasted about three weeks…although not consecutively. (there was sometimes one week in December, one in January and occasionally one in February). After I graduated high school I moved in with my sister in southern Illinois where I got my first taste of what winter really is! Then I moved to New York and spent five years suffering through those winters, although, donning really pretty sweaters helped and I was still young enough to appreciate the beauty of the snow. Then I got married and moved to Alaska for two years. After seven months of not seeing green grass….snow isn't so pretty anymore. Suffice it to say…I really don't like winter, or having to put on layers of clothing (which aren't so pretty anymore when all you care about is trying to get warm). The last twenty years I've lived in Texas again and now Arizona so the memories of dealing with a real winter have faded. My daughter keeps saying she wants to move to somewhere there's snow…little does she know. haha

  6. judy wirzberger

    How to survive. Leave Kith and Kin behind and move back to California. Can't be done, you say?
    Well, I can't afford to live at the ocean so I put an oceanscape mural on my bedroom wall, built a window frame around it, hung drapes and pretend Im at an oceanside condo. But remember the rule of physics – alcohol melts ice.

    Ask your mother for another tablecloth, wrap it around your waist and pretend you're in Hawaii.

    Miss your face. Judy W

  7. Cornelia Read

    Ah, Terri… Alaska is someplace I doubt I'd survive more than a week–in winter, or with the mosquitoes the rest of the time.

    And Judy, I will call mom and ask for a tablecloth NOW. You're a goddamn genius.

  8. Rae

    I don't mind winter – as long as I'm curled up like a cat, purring in front of the fireplace. A good book or a good movie, which are my remedies for any season of gruel. and I'm set,

  9. Karen in Ohio

    Ah, Cornelia, the very idea of dry rot gruel cracks me up. A drama queen even then, you were.

    Put me down in the hating winter column, as well. February in Ohio is the cruelest month, with snowdrops popping up out of the snow, but cold temperatures still lingering. This year has been especially awful. We usually get a handful of warm days mid-winter, but not this year. Or at least not until this week.

    Just finished Invisible Boy. It's been a long time since I've read a book that made me cry like this one did.

  10. Andi

    Yeah yeah and you promised when you moved to NH that you and Grace would come here during winter break because you both HATED THE FUCKING WINTER so much. Have you? no. You've just waited for it to warm up in NY to 67, even after driving from NH to Boston to CT and back. And here we almost cleared off the couch and everything. Are we smarter here? yeah. right. But there is no snow piled up and the heat's stayed on so far. We do have crocuses (croci?) coming up – every year they get conned by a week where there are like 3 warm days and we all run around crouching over and urging them "go back, go BACK. We're not ready yet. Didn't you learn LAST year? It's not warm enough, dammit!" as it goes down to 30 at night. *sigh*

  11. Mikaela

    March 1st? Oh no. Ignore everything before April 1st! 'Cause then there will be no more snow. Right? ( With my luck, it will snow on Valborg. Urgh!!)

  12. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Cornelia

    Loved the blog. And just when I thought Spring was thinking about … well, springing, we had snow here again today. I don't like going for walks and losing contact with half my face by the time I get back.

    Not sure about things turning for March 1st, so I'm taking the precaution of spending most of March in Arizona, California and New Mexico. That should do it!

  13. mary lynn reed

    It took 53 years of living in the mid-west and the mountains for me to learn how to combat winter. Then, ten years ago we moved to Southern California. I'm still waiting for that first winter and whining because today's temp is only 53 degrees. I spend all my non-sleeping hours in front of full-spectrum lights, too.

  14. pari noskin taichert

    February is my birthday month, Cornelia. All month long. I've been eating quite well, thank you.

    Went out and bought three artist pads, cool colored markers and pastels.

    I adore February!

    Now, this March — especially from the 24th to the 27th has me a wee bit nervous.

  15. Reine

    What do I do? I don't know. I just keep doing. Dark night. Cold night. Fright night. Slow night. Fast night. Sad night. Night night. Just keep going night.


  16. Reine

    Ha ha– the photos just came up. Love the beanie. I had a college student in one of my algebra tutorials, and he wore a fucking beanie just like that every meeting. Cornelia, you have a way of making shit look like fun. Rare comme de la marde de pape.

  17. Sylvia

    I love the drama queen story!! I used to wrap a long yellow beach towel around my head and pretend it was my flowing princess hair. Love the rot stew…

    After growing up in Michigan and enduring blizzards galore, I love living in California. Of course living in Northern California isn't shorts, flip-flops all year round (hence we had f'ing HAIL today and SNOW atop Mt. Tam).

    I used to hate February – really, really hate it. This year I've decided to get over it. I've become a Honey Badger (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg) in that 'Honey Badger don't care, Honey Badger don't give a shit' and acting, shall we say, badass. I'm ignoring the fact that it is winter, cold and dismal. I'm jumping in the Bay, in a two-piece and saying screw-you mother nature, bring it on and putting my time in the water for sunnier swims ahead.

    Then I come home to reality which is three kids under 10 with cabin fever, mountains of laundry and work. But I'm also using the dark winter evenings to curl up with great reads! I still haven't bought a Kindle so yes, I'm trolling the aisles at the bookstore and going through my stacks at home. If you winter gives you the creeps (think The Shining) and you've read Tess' latest Ice Cold, well, nuff said.

  18. MBH

    Well, first I got pneumonia, then CIPRO. Now frightening amounts of liquor. Minus 11 to 50 and then back to 20 in 3 days. Fuck me. Meet me in Portland or Portsmouth or somewhere fun for a jaunt. My treat. We can raise a glass to the Sinkytowne Yacht Club and design a new burgee. Love you and miss you. When is next book out??????

  19. Kathryn Lilley

    Love your post! I've been living in California since '86, leaving relatives back in New England. I get very popular in January and February. (Or rather, my house near the ocean does!). I have to drive 'em away with earthquake stories. (When a truck goes by, you look around fearfully and say, "Uh oh–did you feel that?")

  20. Fiona

    I live in Minnesota. Winter is NOT a spectator sport here. Right now, we are getting an honest-to-goodness blizzard. Here's how I survive

    1. I learned to dress for it–lots of layers and NO cotton. It is the death cloth.

    2. I found something to help me enjoy being outside. I love spending time with my shelties, who love the snow, and I like taking pictures. There's always something new to photograph in the winter.

    3. I'm always prepared for the worst–extra food in the pantry, and the gas tank is always at least half full.

    4. I try to keep a sense of humor. Winter can be frustrating, Hot soup helps.

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