Thursday, February 10, 2011


When I was in college, Dar Williams came and performed on campus.  I still have no idea how our tiny little school got her to come put on a concert just for us, free to students.  There must have been some connection in our student life staff or something.  Or maybe we just got lucky.

I went to the concert because it was free and because I have always had a soft spot for hippie music ever since I realized Simon and Garfunkel were actually voicing to my post-adolescent angst somewhere around eighth grade (Because, at thirteen, I was a rock and an island and clearly needed a bridge over troubled water.  Obviously.).  I thought Dar Williams was awesome--not quite as edgy as Ani Difranco (A concert I stupidly missed in college because my boyfriend at the time bought two tickets but then we got in some huge fight and he gave them to me but refused to go with me and I refused to go without him because I would NOT stoop to actually USING the tickets that HE had purchased or something like that and I ended up giving the tickets away to the guy who worked in the mail room on campus in some dramatic play of self-sacrifice and dignified resistance that was obviously a little misguided.  I can't tell you for the life of me what the fight was about, but suffice it to say that we were star-crossed lovers from the start, and not in the happily ever after way, but in the "this will probably end up in some form of murder/suicide or maybe just the inevitable dramatic break up followed by much mutual blame and belated remorse but it's totally worth it because you are a really good kisser" sort of way.  Ah, college.  Such a magical time.) but even without being as gritty as Ani Difranco (who can resist a good song with the F-bomb in its lyrics?), Dar was cool and smart, all whimsical melodies and witty rhymes.

Anyway, I was not all that familiar with Dar Williams before that free concert (the aforementioned college boyfriend once called my taste in music "eclectic" but really I just liked whatever they played on alternative radio, especially REM and Pearl Jam, with Tori Amos and Ani Difranco thrown in for good measure), but that evening Dar Williams completely won me over.  In fact, I pretty much had a total girl crush on her and I kind of wanted to be a free spirited, guitar playing lesbian with long hair and long skirts and clever lyrics (for the record, I'm not sure whether Dar Williams is actually a lesbian but that really made no difference to me).

My favorite song I heard that night was "The Christians and the Pagans."  I bought her CD that has that song on it, and I still listen to it.  In fact, I put it on tonight while I was ironing David's clothes.

The Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

It's a catchy little ditty and the thought of people embracing spiritual differences always warms my heart.  (Hmm...  Not so different than I was at age twenty, after all.)  But tonight I hit shuffle on the ipod and the song that came on first was "February."  It felt...  appropriate.  Sort of painfully appropriate. Before Eliza, I would have told you that this song is about a couple having a big argument, almost breaking up, and getting back together.  But tonight it just made me think about kind of grief that threatens to put a wedge between even the best of friends because the pain is so isolating it can make you feel totally frozen inside.

I threw your keys in the water, I looked back
They'd frozen halfway down in the ice.
They froze up so quickly, the keys and their owners,
Even after the anger, it all turned silent, and
Then everyday turned solitary
So we came to February.

First we forgot where we'd planted those bulbs last year,
Then we forgot that we'd planted at all,
Then we forgot what plants are altogether,
and I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and
The nights were long and cold and scary,
Can we live through February? 

You know, I think Christmas was a long red glare,
Shot up like a warning, we gave presents without cards
And then the snow,
And then the snow came, we were always out shoveling,
And we'd drop to sleep exhausted,
Then we'd wake up, and it's snowing.

And February was so long that it lasted into March
And found us walking a path alone together.
You stopped and pointed and you said, "That's a crocus,"
And I said, "What's a crocus?" and you said, "It's a flower."
I tried to remember, but I said, "What's a flower?"
You said, "I still love you."

The leaves were turning as we drove to the hardware stores,
My new lover made me keys to the house,
And we we got home, well we just started chopping wood,
Because you never know how next year will be,
And we'll gather all our arms can carry.
I have lost to February.  

(I really recommend you listen to Dar sing it here.  Trust me.  She's awesome.)

I like the conclusion of the last stanza.  It's only cautiously hopeful.  Because you never know how next year will be.  But still, they're preparing for next year together.  They're gathering all the wood (and I think all the hope) their arms can carry.

The weather here in December, January, February has been so bleak and cold and snowy.  Winter in St. Louis usually offers snow and ice but with plenty of sunshine and mushy meltiness in between--often getting up into the 60s before dropping a couple more inches of snow.  This winter has been different.  Darker.  Colder.  Deeper.  And much snowier than usual.  I suppose it's kind of depressing, but frankly I like it just fine.  It matches my mood.  It's a good excuse not to leave the house.  To put up a protective barrier of baggy sweaters and warm scarves.  And I really don't think the weather could make me feel any worse than I already do.

Well, that's not entirely true.  I actually think if it were nice outside, it would feel like a greater betrayal.  If I had to sit in my house and hear the neighbors splashing in their pool and barbecuing, I'm not sure I could stand it.  This is much better.  Cold and solemn and respectful.

I have lost to February.

I do feel like maybe I have lost to February.  For the shortest month of the year, it's awfully long and dark.  I wonder sometimes how we'll make it through this month.  But, as the song promises, there will eventually be crocuses again.  And if I can't remember what flowers are, I think I can count on David to remind me and to love me still. 


  1. I agree with you. Of all the months, I've always disliked February the most. I just hope it is over soon.

  2. Your college experience sounds so familiar.. Thanks for reminding me of the song. She sings so beautifully! It's been a really long time since I can remember having a winter quite like this one and appreciate the weather matching my mood. I'm definitely ready for some warmth though! Much love mama~

  3. Funny because I am much like you.. I love the rain and grey skies that have covered the south lately... it makes me feel even more connected to him.

  4. February is my least favourite month too. :p

  5. I cry every time I hear Dar play this song live. There was a time in my life that I cried every time I heard the song, period. It is so beautiful, it captures February so perfectly.

    We got tickets to see Dar perform here about three weeks before Otis was born. He wiggled and danced throughout the concert, so vibrantly that even E commented that he could feel the baby moving from HIS seat, without even touching me. It was truly magical.

    And gosh, Ani DiFranco got me through some particularly angsty moments in my life...and interestingly enough, I now take some pleasure in singing loudly to Cee Lo's F@*k You song as well. Probably no big surprise knowing my affinity for the F word.

    Sending you love, as always.

  6. Duh- I should say not only does it capture February so perfectly, but it captures the entire experience of which you speak - the cautious hope, the isolating nature of grief, the kind that renders you unable to recognize a familiar flower in your own garden...

    It rained on the day of Otis's memorial service, right smack dab in our warmest season, in the middle of a warm, sunny spell of days. It felt so perfectly fitting.

  7. You write so beautifully, I am really enjoying reading your blogs. I don't really "enjoy" the subject matter, but as I am going through something very similar, I totally understand what you are coping with and working through.
    I am going to listen to this song now, as it sounds beautiful. Thanks for sharing.