A January Miscellaney from earlier Gazette editions:
January is the perfect month to pull old books from shelves too high to reach at other times of the year. We came across a passage while reading the other night that set us to thinking about this first month of the new year. Most writers, we decided, find January something of a struggle, a month difficult to write about, especially when searching for a little light in the darkest part of the winter.
But we were talking about that passage in an old book. “It’s January, all right,” said the writer. “But January passes and April comes, always and forever. And those things rooted in the good earth make few mistakes.” The author seemed almost to skip January as if not worthy of mention.
That turned the mind to January on the Vineyard. We wondered about its difficulty, sleet the other night, part of a cold rain blowing off the sea, and little snow yet this year, snow that brings a majesty to the Island when all is white and still. But always there is another side to the Vineyard in January, the flash of red beyond the frosted window, a cardinal in the hedgerow, and goldfinches at the feeders, a little more green than gold these days. What else, we thought. Buds on the dogwood, green horns on the skunk cabbage, frozen wood is better split in January and fires burn brighter at the hearthside.
And dreamers grow better gardens in January, all in all not a bad month, especially on the Vineyard.
The day is cold and damp and drear,
As entering our glad new year
The dark and heavy clouds hang low
To threaten sharper cold and snow.
But may the restless soul know peace
As daylight hours now increase
And may sad souls arise and sing;
Henceforth ‘tis all downhill to spring!
Many among us are saying that they cannot recall a milder winter as this of 1937 on the Vineyard. Perhaps this season is a record, but there have been many mild winters before, one or two when violets bloomed in January. Not many years ago there was a succession of agreeable winters in which hollyhocks stayed green all year-round, and in 1932 we had bluebirds, pansies, daisies and dandelions, and crocuses were several inches above the ground, all in January.
The following, we believe, were the mildest winters of a century: 1838-39, 1840-41, 1849-50, 1857-58, 1860-61, 1866-67, 1868-69, 1869-70, 1875-76; 1877-78, 1879-80, and 1894-95, when violets were picked in Edgartown in late January.
If this is not the mildest winter, it is certainly the darkest. We cannot believe that ever in any season has the sun shone less. We usually have so much sunlight that we take it for granted, but now the sun is a stranger, and the light of the day is at best a dim and dusky thing.
Many things enter into a year’s reputaion for mildness. Statiscally there is the average temperature. Psychologically there mayn be a few amazingly warm days which impress themselves on our memories. Horticulturally there may be a few unseasonable flowers which get themselves recorded, although a zero wave may descend the next day. If we had a weather observer we should know where we stood about all these things; as it is, they have us in a jumble.
The earthen sea,
The leaden sky,
The bare bones of the country show.
Bitten by bitter frost,
For the first snow.
At last, at night,
A few uncertain flakes
Blow down the shaft of the air,
Sideslipping to and fro,
Circling and sifting.
One after one
They flow, then overflow,
In a prolonged enchantment,
Into the drifting shape
Of dream, shift, escape
From the undertow of time.
How quiet do they fall.
The cool, insidious deepening
Of the snow.
Perhaps the seasonal residents of Martha’s Vineyard now living in their city homes on the mainland are wondering what the Island is like in this 1940 winter of cold weather and of snow and ice. Well, it is pretty fine.
It seems to be the wind which has kept the ice from massing as sometimes it does, but the winds have not been bitter or violent. Sometimes ice floes have come sailing in, almost as if under power, and then they have taken themselves out again to keep appointments elsewhere.
Winter sports — skating, iceboating, even skiing — have had a chance under nearly ideal conditions. Sleighbells have jingled. The ponds are smooth enough for skating.
A hard winter but so far a fine winter — and the Island has a natural ruggedness which enables it to take this sort of season in its stride.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner