February

We lay on the back deck, soaking in the sunshine. Never mind that it is mid-February and that there is snow at the other end of the deck, today is sunny and the deck, sheltered from the wind, is briefly warm. When Andre invited me to do this, I thought he was crazy, but it turns out, he was right.

February is not always my best month. I often find it too cold, too snowy, too gray. I miss the way summer days are easy: how I can go out without searching for my jacket and boots, hop in the car without clearing the windshield, or walk on the sidewalk without looking for ice. But this February, I adopted the word “deliberate” and I like to think that it has made a little bit of a difference.

To deliberate is to think about or discuss issues and decisions carefully; to be deliberate is to be slow, unhurried, and steady as though allowing time for decision on each individual action involved. Something deliberate is characterized by careful and thorough consideration. This February I’ve focused on discussing issues carefully with colleagues – which books should we be teaching? whose voices do our students need to hear? – and I’ve tried to slow down, especially in my teaching. With only four-ish weeks to teach a course and only around 10 days face-to-face with the students, I can find myself in a bit of a rush. We started our third quadmester on February first, and I already felt the urge to rush: there is so much I want them to know, so much they would love to learn. Instead, I’ve been focused on staying unhurried, not adding to the stress that piles up around us like February’s snow. I’ve been trying to be deliberate.

I’m also reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s beautiful book Braiding Sweetgrass, sometimes listening to the audiobook where her gentle voice soothes me, sometimes reading the paper version of the book where I marvel at her sentences. If you haven’t read it, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Here is a vision of a deliberate life; not a life of no action, but rather one of thoughtful steps through the world we inhabit. Each essay calls me to think and rethink my own journey. This morning, I startled when I realized that she had spent twelve years cleaning up a pond on her property. Twelve years! I went back to listen to that part again. I, too, can work slowly and deliberately towards my goals.

Now February – so much shorter than any other month – is moving towards a close. Next month’s word will be publish as I move into Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life challenge; I know there will be days when I will rush forward without time to think. Before that, however, I have five more days of deliberate and, if I’m lucky, maybe one more day remembering how, at its best, February brings blue skies that hang impossibly high and deep above me as I lay next to my loved one on boards warmed by a sun whose strength is in its consistency.

13 thoughts on “February

  1. I’m taking a rushed lunch break to gobble a salad and opened my email to read your post. The book Braiding Sweetgrass has appeared to me before. I think it was a Facebook post. Maybe yours. I relate so well to your intentions. I intend to write for Slice of Life and this week I am getting worried that I can’t do it. It happens every time. I hope to relax and be OK with my imperfections. That last line got me right where I live, taking in the sunshine and just plain enjoying what is yours. Thanks for sparking me today.

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  2. It’s an amazing feeling to turn the face to the sunshine in mid winter. It brings a message from the spring. I am sure you will have sunshiny writing and photographing days in March.

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  3. There is so much to be learned from indigenous ways of knowing and ways of being with the world. You’re right, and I know I will rush as well! Let’s be accountability partners in more than just equity. Let’s be partners in slowing down, in pausing, in taking time for the sunshine in the middle of winter.

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  4. This is such a beautiful and deliberate post and perfectly bookended by your lying in the February sun with your husband. I’ve had “Braiding Sweetgrass” in my “Buy Later” queue for such a long time. I think you’ve just edged it up to the “buy” category.

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  5. February brings blue skies that hang impossibly high and deep above me as I lay next to my loved one on boards warmed by a sun whose strength is in its consistency.

    I reworked this part in my mind. It’s a lovely poem.

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  6. I love your word choice. I rush through things too! I have a jar of chocolate kisses in my cupboard at school. I hate doing the whole-class washroom breaks twice a day, so I take a piece of chocolate and deliberately enjoy it while I wait for the class to finish. It’s changed my experience of this dreaded break.

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  7. 1. February IS a messy month! 2. I love your word focus, and this definition: “To deliberate is to think about or discuss issues and decisions carefully; to be deliberate is to be slow, unhurried, and steady as though allowing time for decision on each individual action involved.” Oh, how we need more of both, everywhere. Love how you shift the focus at the end to the gifts in your life, in February (despite its messiness). Little secret: I have been thinking of writing around a word a day for the challenge. Have never tried it before. We shall see what happens – but I am heartened here; you illustrate so well the power that one well-chosen word can have.

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  8. I had your slice open in a tab for 2 days!! Finally read it and I’m glad I did. I love that February day when you first feel the sun’s rays and warmth. It happened here today. Sharing the multiple roles deliberate can play in your life makes me take pause – which I appreciate! I’ll add Braiding Sweetgrass to my never ending list — I also admire that you listen to audio and hold the book! So often, people are wed to one way — for me, the paper book! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Long time no see…my fault, of course. You’ve been deliberately posting. I’ve been off the wagon (in a literary sense). This idea of being deliberate strikes me as just what I need at this time of year. We’ve gone from a peaceful, less-is-more hybrid model where I felt like I was seeing, hearing, and knowing my kids, to a more frenetic full-in, full curriculum, overflowing day, and I’ve felt like it wasn’t what I needed or my students needed. It was mostly just what parents and pressured administrators needed. Now, I need to work on being deliberate…and selective. If Braiding Sweetgrass is what I need to read to achieve that level of calm or purpose, then I’m heading to Audible right now. And I’m doing that last-minute hem and haw about the March challenge. I think I have to try it again. Thanks so much for this post and your focus on “the word.”

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