FEBRUARY 1, 1798, SOMERSET
FROM HER DIARY
The wind blew so keen in our faces that we felt ourselves inclined to seek the covert of the wood. There we had a warm shelter, gathered a burthen of rotten boughs blown down by the wind of the preceding night. The sun shone clear, but all at once a heavy blackness hung over the sea. The trees almost roared, and the ground seemed in motion with the multitudes of dancing leaves, which made a rustling sound, distinct from that of the trees. The wind beat furiously against us as we returned. Full moon. She rose in uncommon majesty over the sea, slowly ascending through the clouds. Sat with the window open an hour in the moon light.
By now, the novelty of winter has certainly worn away. All of the childlike wonder that accompanies the first snows of the season are long since forgotten in the bitterness of bone chilling cold. Well, that is true if you live in certain parts of the Northern Hemisphere. If you are fortunate to reside in warmer locations, try not to gloat.
Thoreau, writing on the coldest day of 1855, noted the old saying that “by the 1st of February the meal and grain for a horse are half out.” (He spent the rest of that frozen month skating on the local rivers.) We are likewise inclined to the introspection of imposed solitude when reflection comes easily, if not with a friendly face.
Like the wheel of the liturgical year, the earth’s seasons mirror those of our life, and now is the perfect time for context. As Patricia Hampl wrote in A Romantic Education “And what else was there to do in the winter? Stay inside and read. Or write. Stay inside and dream. Stay inside and look, safely, outside. The Muse might as well be invited—who else would venture out?”
Enjoy the season my friend. As Shelly said
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
D I G D E E P E R
February by Michael Stowa
German artist known mainly for his paintings, which are variously whimsical, surreal, or stunning. His paintings often feature animals and are titled in English and German. Sowa studied at the Berlin State School of Fine Arts for seven years and worked briefly as an art teacher before focusing entirely on his career as a painter and illustrator.He was the cover artist for several albums, including Mad Season by Matchbox Twenty and two covers for The Beautiful South‘s Miaow and for their single “Everybody’s Talkin’.”
He gained new followers for his work on the 2001 film Amélie where his art on the walls comes to life. Sowa contributes illustrations to the satirical German magazine, Titanic, and he also did the art work for magazine covers of several well-known periodicals, most notably the December 2, 2002 issue of The New Yorker.
See this whimsical animation of his painting:
Dorothy Wordsworth was born on Dec. 25, 1771, in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England. The death of their mother in 1778 separated Dorothy from her brothers, and from 1783 they were without a family home. When William was lent a house in Dorset in 1795, she made a home for him there. At Alfoxden, Somerset, in 1796–98, she enjoyed with William and Samuel Taylor Coleridge a companionship of “three persons with one soul.” She went with them to Germany in 1798–99, and in December 1799 she and William settled for the first time in a home of their own, Dove Cottage, in Grasmere in the Lake District. She remained there until 1808, when she moved with the family to Rydal Mount. In 1829 she became dangerously ill, and after that she led the life of an invalid. Her ill health apparently affected her intellect, and during the last 20 years of her life her mind was clouded. She died in Rydal Mount on Jan. 25, 1855.
Dorothy Wordsworth wrote only to please William and had no thought of publishing her writings. Nevertheless, her prose is spontaneous, clear, and completely natural. As a record of her brother’s life and the dates and circumstances of writing of almost all his poems in the years of his greatest poetic achievement, Grasmere Journals is invaluable. The volume also provides a picture of early 19th-century cottage life in a remote part of England. The Alfoxden Journal is a record of William’s friendship with Coleridge that resulted in their Lyrical Ballads (1798), with which the Romantic movement began. Both journals were published posthumously in 1897.
Grigson, Geoffrey. The English Year. Oxford University Press, 1984
Nissley, Tom. A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year (Kindle Locations 903-905). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
“Wordsworth, Dorothy,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).