More snow is falling in what has already been a snowy winter. That’s good news for Terry and all the other skiers who’ll enjoy frolicking in several inches of fresh powder. For the rest of us who don’t have a passion for winter sports to keep us occupied, the instinct to hunker down is strong. But for me, at least, there is another instinct that urges me to resist hunkering.
Although New Year’s Day holds no special meaning for me, late January does. Maybe having a mid-winter birthday has forged an association of ideas, specifically that this is the time of year when plans are altered or new ones made, when new enterprises are begun, when decisions of great importance are made. Whatever the reason, I begin to feel a soul-stirring and an eagerness that stands in contrast to the bleakness of the landscape.
For me, the fourth week of January is a time of momentous changes — both good and bad — and always has been. Unlike most of my classmates, I finished high school in January and began college in January a couple of years later. I started my first (and many subsequent) jobs in January. I became a father in January, and became a grandfather in February (which is just January staying too long at the party and refusing to leave). Three years ago, my legs and lungs got clogged with clots in January, although I wasn’t paying enough attention and didn’t notice it for a couple more weeks. And now in 2014, these stark mid-winter days have me feeling like something’s going to happen, like I’m a pebble kicked from a ledge, beginning to tumble, beginning to roll down the slope, picking up momentum, picking up speed.
Out in the world, the cold continues, but the lengthening of the days at this time of year is a daily reality.
In Boston, sunset is later by more than a minute every day. By the end of the month, the sun won’t be dipping below the horizon until almost five o’clock. Office workers will leave their buildings with light in the sky. High school students will be able to finish their afternoon practices and emerge into daylight for the first time in two months.
As the snow reminds us, we are not done with winter, not by a long shot. But when the temperatures linger in the single digits, as they will in February, I will repeat this mantra:
“The light returns before the warmth.”
And I will be content, for now, with light. I’ll celebrate a birthday and for a few weeks, at least, I’ll hope to feel like a newly minted 56-year-old, rather than a tired 55-year-old. Such are the mental games we play with ourselves. It’s the fourth week of January and a time for new beginnings, with every expectation that this is going to be a good year, a year of longer long runs and harder track workouts and races and getting stronger and faster. Why not? It’s January, change is afoot, the light is on the move, and anything is possible.