There's Something About February

I have a theory about Februarys. (Novembers too, but that's another story.*) The theory is that Februarys become a problem from which one needs to escape. I guess there's the obvious reason: it's been cold for a while. It's been really cold for over a month. When it's sunny, it usually means it's painfully cold. Last week it was actually easily bearable, but that didn't mean I wanted to walk all the way to campus and climb several flights of stairs and talk about winter and Melancholie in der deutsch(sprachig)en Literatur und Kultur—hey look, my class is on topic. I especially did not want to do this on five hours of sleep. Last week kind of spiraled out of control; everything took longer than anticipated, even when I was working diligently. I'd be working working working and then look up at the corner of my computer screen and yell, "Goddammit!" pointlessly to myself when I realized how much time I'd spent scanning in the original text of a translation I'm working on, for example. And converting files. And trying to combine several PDFs into one for free online. It's not easy. I gave up.
This is what February is like: trekking across a never-ending sheet of ice. (View out the Reichstag in Berlin, Jan. 2009) 

Even if the cold has stretched farther into our lives by February (and we're only a week in, people—the oppression will continue), so has daytime. As January passed, I marveled at the sunlight that was still around in the evenings. Maybe the problem with February is that everything has become normal. The snow is old in Ann Arbor, and probably nonexistent in Wayne County, or if in a given February it's there, it's probably dirty from the roads. The sun has been working on its return for over a month, so it's less of a surprise. Midterms are already happening for those of us unfortunate enough to have the two-plus-midterms-and-a-final schedule, and then the normal ones come at the end of the month before "spring" break. (On Thursday I had to spell out Huitzilopochtli on my exam on the archaeology of the Aztecs, and it was not fun. Seeing as that was the hardest part of the test, though, I can't really complain.) It's still the beginning of the new year, but the charm has worn off, and in the context of a university year, by February we've been walking these same streets to do the same things and not sleep at the right times for the same reasons for over five months.
Traveling somewhere that is somewhat closer to spring than Michigan is a good plan. (Justizpalast, Munich, Feb. 2008)

Let's get on with life. Let's go. To the wide open west! To the (somewhat) warmer south! To the I don't have an adjective right now besides snooty and cultured east! To the wilds of the north! The secret is that it's not that warm anywhere nearby, and life here isn't so bad when you're not applying to things constantly and then realizing the devious kitten is sleeping on your computer in the hope that the rickety screen will finally get pushed all the way off so that you have to buy a new computer and can never afford to travel anywhere ever again.

The last few weekends have been really pleasant, even if they were in wintry Michigan and I can no longer remember the weekdays, just the blur of homework and drooping eyelids. I've watched movies: one night all Emma and I could think of that was appealing then was the German film Downfall and Ten Things I Hate About You (neither of which we had seen in full), but wanted something in between. Somehow we ended up checking out Breakfast At Tiffany's. It's in between chronologically, so they dress nicely and are closer to Nazi Germany, but it's not too comedic or really romantic, just crazy. So crazy. I saw Avatar with my brother and parents one weekend for my dad's birthday, then went to Polish Village in Hamtramck for delicious pork, pork, pork and potatoes and that lovely Central European woodbeams-and-white-walls-and-tall-glasses-of-beer atmosphere. It was still January back then.
The dust caught the light so well, but later I cleaned these stairs and vacuumed more than I have ever vacuumed in my life.

My mom visited me and my brother in Ann Arbor so she could take the car I drive home for repairs, and I visited ex-housemates/best friends that have moved out of our daily lives, and they visited us. We ate cookies, ice cream, Chinese food, chocolate lava cakes made in my new red ramekins. I went to East Quad and saw the last Evening of Scenes I will probably ever see, and watched World War II and Werner Herzog movies. I never went to bed at the right time on Sunday nights. Also, I read. I didn't read enough, but I tried, and once Thursdays came and all my due dates had passed, I curled up in the possibly moldy but always cozy yellow armchair, angled it to catch the most light, and read the History of the Byzantine State for as long as I could without falling asleep. One time, I wore my sunglasses because the light reflecting off the book's pages was too bright. Sometimes, like Table Cat, I would just shut my eyes and enjoy the sun.
Ostrogorsky rarely cites English sources. He wrote his history of Byzantium in German, which remains most clear in the footnotes ('Der Streit über den Titel des ökumenischen Patriarchen, z.B.). There are also sources from languages I can't read—Slavic ones, Greek, Latin, Italian. But most of them are in German and French, and I get excited thinking that for once, my combination of foreign languages is most useful. I read "L'Organisation militaire de l'Égypte byzantine, Fin du monde antique, les Études de papyrologie" and I think I want to be studying French again. Sometimes, in the early afternoons when I have the house to myself, I read the titles out loud to the dozing, indifferent cats and try take my accent as far as it can go.

I spent one Sunday going through my photos from last year to build a free photo book on Shutterfly, and then to pick which ones to order prints of to bring my total cost up to free-shipping level. It took all day, and by the end, all I wanted was to ride the Straßenbahn into town, or eat another piece of that Parisian quiche I have a photo of, or at the very least, get out my trusty travel backpack and return to the straightforward existence of the traveler for a week or two. All week long, I'd find myself thinking of other places I could be. It's not that I was overwhelmed, not like other Februarys. Somehow, I still got drawn into this wanderlust (I didn't realize that was a German loanword but it makes sense!). I would love to be around in this house for more golden sunsets like the one below, but I would also love to leave. There's something about February that just makes you want to be somewhere—maybe anywhere—else.
 *Oh, and November? That's the actual cruellest month. Also, I probably should stop talking about sunlight so much; I have a post from last year called Sonnenlicht = Sunlight. And the first two of the last photos are through the front door; the last is the fairy statue on the porch without anything but air between it and the camera.

1 comment:

dandelionia said...

Pretty pictures!

(And interesting content, of course, but we already talked about that)