The Bookshelf ~ February 2024
February wrings out my patience in a way no other month manages to do. But my hope in the coming spring is building, building, building. And I must give February its due. It does the fundamental groundwork for spring, so when the blossoms do finally burst forth, I feel such a deep relief. I abide in this gladness. A month of lingering winter is worth the triumph in the end.
Here is a list of things that are especially lovely & needed in February:
Wandering my local nurseries and plant stores. Stepping out of a dreary, late-winter day into a room filled with green, oxygen, and the scent of damp soil.
Walking outside every day, unattached to the day’s workout. My neighborhood block is a seven minute loop. This simple walk, this moment of recalibration, never fails.
Turning on the lamps earlier than usual. Sometimes, I turn on all the lights for quarter of an hour or so, just to feel brightness in my chest.
Deciding to be a poet whenever rain or snow falls from the sky. Cold rain is dreary and depressing. But cold rain when one has opened a window or stood in a doorway, listening to the steady music of drip, drip, drip, watching the sky with a warm mug of tea between your hands? A rich layer to any day.
Speaking of tea. One of my favorite teas is called Egyptian Licorice (the tea brand is called Yogi). I am very picky about which spices I consume and in what form I like them, but this particular blend of spice followed by the swinging notes of sweet licorice? No sweetener needed. And let’s be honest, I am a sucker for the encouraging messages that come with the teabags.
Last but not least, lighting a candle for a few minutes every day. On my last trip to London I found myself at Petersham Nurseries in the village of Petersham in Richmond Park. There I bought a small stock of candles. Some were for me. Some were gifts for others. But these beauties burn long and slow—the sign of good wax.
I ADORE the banners and dingbats Kevin Cantrell Studio designed for Beth Brower Scribbles Away. Kevin is a brilliant, versatile branding artist. He is also the designer who created my custom St. Crispian’s Gazette header.
WRITING UPDATES. (Also known as, Beth assures the public she is working on The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion, Vol. 8.)
Some good news: The other morning I woke up with my room filled with The Reprobates Ten. They were chatting and laughing and scheming. I rubbed my eyes, grabbed a pen and my notebook, jotted down a few lines, and moved through the motions of my morning, in my pajamas, listening while they amused themselves (and me, admittedly).
Some bad news: Every single scene they gave me was for Emma M. Lion, Vol. 10. A thing which keeps happening. Vol. 10, Vol. 9, Vol. 11... But never fear, Vol. 8 is well on its way.
LIKE I MENTIONED last month, I’ve been recalibrating how and where I spend my time. One thing I am putting into practice is a slight adjustment to how I use Instagram. Don’t worry, I’m keeping my account the same. I will still post, read your wonderful messages, and respond as I am able. But I am going to unfollow all accounts for now, so I don’t spend too much time inside the app. This is not personal. Goodness, not in the least. To my friends and my family that I follow, let me say: I am unfollowing my own mother. Lol. So, please know I am not changing a thing about our relationship. I just need to step back from getting lost in a labyrinth of pictures every day to spend more time writing.
A friend of mine is a beekeeper. She was one of my English professors. I took my first class from her eighteen years ago. Thankfully, her lectures on Emily Dickinson and Emerson, the course on Chaos and Creation, the deep dives into Marilynne Robinson, Faulkner, and T. S. Eliot, turned into a lifelong friendship. There are no expectations, and light is our currency. She texted me an image a week ago that felt like walking into sunshine. I told her it would be my mantra for February and asked if I could share it with you. She said yes, and sent me more.
It is an infrared photograph of one of her beehives.
Look at it! That glorious glow of life, the bees in their quiet, winter hum; a pulsing force of life at rest, in wait, until the time they are to rise up, fly forth, and do the work that makes so much food and beauty possible.
She takes these photos so she knows which hives are still alive, to “gain a sense of the density of the cluster”, to know if they need supplemental food for this last stretch of winter.
The image makes my body feel rejuvenated. It feels healing. And joyful. A visible delivery of what we all need in the last weeks of winter. Here are a few more, as my valentines to you all:
Isn’t it something to think of all those bees emanating light from their winter hives?
I wish we could take such an image of our own soul, see the banking warmth, make certain all is well, understand what nutrition is needed for our personal winters.
I think we can, in many ways. It takes listening.
Happy February, my friends.