A Sense of Momentum
Well, that’s better. The year finally seems to be moving forward and I think we have February to thank for it. After January performed its usual dilatory exercise in prolonged hanging around, it took the shortest month of the year to finally kick the rock out of the road and get the great wheel rolling.
The signs of gathering momentum are subtle but unmistakable. Some are ubiquitous: the hours of sunlight are gradually stretching out and twilight no longer hits before we’ve finished lunch. My chickens have observed some mysterious crossing of the diurnal threshold with a grand outpouring of eggs. They certainly can’t keep up at this rate until the fall. Likewise the bees, which seem to be in spring training, are flexing wings and flying swarmy circles in anticipation of the nectar flow to come. It’s all a response to the lengthening days. And of course the seed catalogues are arriving in the mail, feeding fantasies of torrid summer greenery and autumn bounty.
Other signs are more localized and, at the risk of vexing my comrades living in less temperate climes, I’ll cite them anyway. Things are starting to bloom here. The first daffodils have appeared and the backyard plum tree is about to go all pink and fluffy. My favas are well up and I saw some in the schoolyard at the top of the hill that were already setting blossoms. It may be time, if the weather stays warm, to think about starting the tomato seeds so that I can get a jump on the season. I am resolved this year to have those Romas ripen before Thanksgiving.
Another gauge of the progress of the season is the arrival of new birds in the yard. After some months of nothing but crows and towhees, it is nice to look out the window and see a rustle of sparrows in the pomegranate bush. We also get migratory visits of something we refer to simply as “bush-tits” as well as squadrons of more exotic visitors. I don’t know what all of these are called but someday I’ll have to get out the field guide and make their acquaintance.
Yes, things are definitely underway and the sense of motion spurs one to plan and strategize for the year ahead, to concoct clever schemes and imagine grand results, to plot courses and foresee destinations. We owe our thanks to February for putting it all in play.
But the cat doesn’t think so. She has found the Perfect Spot. It is a patch of territory on the sideboard in the back room, perfect for napping. The sun’s trajectory this time of year aims warming rays right at the southeast side of our yard where, diffused by the leaves of the avocado tree, they pass at a gentle angle through the window glass and onto the cat. Bathed in the wash of filtered light, she can spend the better part of the day snoozing, or doing whatever it is she does, without having to move a bit. Of course she will shift position occasionally, but that is only in the interests of enhancing the Perfect Position, and in no way suggests moving from the Perfect Spot. So there she lies, in conspicuous contentment, doing pretty much nothing other than emitting the occasional purr. And it makes me wonder.
It is stressing the obvious to say that I don’t really know what a cat is thinking, but I do believe that she isn’t busying her mind with previewing the year’s activities. She isn’t running a mental monologue along the lines of, “Hoorah! The year is underway, tempus fugit, and carpe diem!” (She will carpe the occasional mouse, but never a diem, and then only in her more active moments, of which this is not one). No, she probably isn’t planning, or even planning to plan.
The cat is doing something cats are really good at. She is being a cat. While I understand February as a starting line, a sluiceway to direct the flow of productive activity, the cat takes February as simply the time when the sun streams in through the window in a particularly mellow and satisfying way. She is contentedly savoring the present moment, while I am discontentedly anticipating the next. My mind can see that the present is just a place to hang out while busily weaving a vision of the future. Her mind can’t do that, and yet she is content.
You see, February is rich in symbolic meaning for me, but it means nothing to her. The cat doesn’t understand metaphor. That is her problem. I do. That is mine.
- David Parr, Artistic Director