I’m not sure why I think of February as a bit of a pretender in the January-to-December calendar. It could be the lack of a satisfactory ending: finished in a too-tidy 28 days, so some days go missing. It could be the lack of a proud identity: it’s surrounded by the more illustrious months, January (“I’m the beginning of a brand new year!”) and March (“Spring will be arriving before I’m gone!”) Or it could be the awkward unprounounced “r” at the heart of it (does anyone say Feb-ru-ary rather than Feb-u-ary?) which feels a little “presumido” as they say in Spanish. A bit pretentious and effortful. I remind myself right now that it has Valentine’s Day…so romance, love, roses…maybe I’ll cut it a little slack? Or maybe I won’t, because every February I wish I could escape the Pacific Northwest and go someplace less gray and less rain-soaked.
In any case, I feel like it’s a month that merits a collection of thoughts, so I offer up some interesting bits and pieces that have been on my mind and on my desk.
- I’m celebrating a new book, Nathan’s Song, by the talented Leda Schubert. It’s one of those perfect picture books; Leda knows what she’s doing: not a word too many, not a word too few, exciting illustrations, and a story I love. It’s based on Leda’s real grandfather, a young Russian Jew who yearned to study opera in Italy, left the shtetl to do just that, and accidentally (he got on the wrong ship) became an immigrant in New York City. Wonderful book – if your local library doesn’t have it, encourage them to purchase it. Or, even better, order it and add it to your collection. Leda has recently posted photographs of her grandfather on Facebook; here is one of Nathan with his sister, and another of just Nathan:
2. Next, a heads up for tonight, literally: Friday the 26th is the best night for viewing the Snow Moon. Which is also known as the Big Hoop Moon (Cheyenne), the Sleet Moon (Comanche), and the Big Bear Moon (Tlingit.) By the way, February has no full moon every 19 years. Another example of its fragmentary nature?
3. Julie Paschkis’s wonderful post two weeks ago looked into pianos: learning to play them, reading about them. So I follow up with an unrelated “Piano” of my own: I recommend the book Atlantis by Carlo and Renzo Piano. The subtitle is “A Journey in Search of Beauty,” and it follows the trip by sailing ship of Carlo Piano, a journalist, and his famous father, Renzo Piano, the architect of the Pompidou Center, the Whitney Museum, and the new New York Times Building, among many other famous structures. I especially liked Chapter 16: City of Music, which offers up this interesting observation when discussing the call of sirens (the kind that seduce sailors, not the kind that sound an alarm): “There are plenty of theories about sirens….Some believe that what gets mistaken for sirens are rogue waves that produce melodies.” There’s a poem in that if anyone wants to write it. And here’s an interesting passage for another poem: “Sound is air quivering in space, physicality. .An architect is a constructor of music boxes. When designing a concert hall, merely achieving acoustic perfection is insufficient. An architect must also give it character. And he has to grant everyone access to the same emotions at the same time. One of the beautiful things about listening to music is that we listen to it together.” Piano goes on to talk about the lightness of music and the heaviness of architecture. Pure poetry.
That’s it for now: two bits and one piece, or one bit and two pieces.
Oh. One last bit-let (aka trivia): Did you know that February used to have another name? In Old English it was called Solmonath – which some translate as “mud month.”
No wonder I’m dreaming of Oaxaca!