February is the longest month of the year in my opinion, never mind what the calendar says. It just drags on and on. It is too cold to go out much. While the daylight is beginning to lengthen, darkness still comes early and stays late. There are few opportunities to do much of anything. Besides, I’m not in the mood for much other than hibernation.
Meanwhile, out at the lake at Middle Creek the water fowl are beginning to gather for migration. A few Canada geese stay year round. More begin to come throughout the winter. Sometime around Christmas tundra swans begin to show up in ever greater numbers. Then, in February, the snow geese begin to arrive.
At the moment the lake is largely frozen over. Snow cover makes the paths less inviting if passable at all. Yet there are reports of snow goose arrivals. By the end of February or early March hundreds of thousands of geese will pass through on their way north to summer breeding grounds.
Nearer home, under that snow cover the Lenten Rose already lies waiting for the first rays of sun.
The Lenten Rose is one of the first flowers to bloom in Spring. Lent, the season of the Christian liturgical year that leads up to Easter, begins in February. Often February is the coldest, snowiest part of the year in this area. Under the snow this hardy little plant will already be forming buds. As the temperature waxes and wanes with the coming of Spring the plant folds in tighter to itself or opens up to the sun. Finally it bursts open. It continues blooming for most of May. Already in January, as soon as the snow begins to recede, I start looking for the buds. Often they are covered over by dead leaves and other garden detritus. If I push this natural mulch aside I will find them – little messengers of hope.
I am impatient to move on into Spring. Our flowers are always on the late side of the season. We don’t get as many sunlight hours as many in our area do because of the way our house is situated. We brought the daffodils that modeled for this painting into the house while they were still buds. When they felt the warmth indoors they quickly began to open. I painted rapidly. Within several hours the blooms were completely open and my model looked entirely different. It was good to focus on that particular moment, to capture the unfolding rather than completely open blooms. Things are always unfinished. There is a particular beauty in that moment of beginning and promise.
When I think of thistles, I immediately think of prickles. As a child, running barefoot and landing on a thistle was an impressive experience. Lessons were learned. The thistle has other attributes though. It boasts a beautiful flower that attracts bees and butterflies. Its seeds are a select food for finches and other small birds. Likewise, life has its prickles which can demand our attention. I hope to be able to look further to notice and treasure the flowers and seeds as well.