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.