Lili changed my winter days forever.
I never met her and for a while I didn’t think she existed. She is one of Ocean’s earliest readers. Every once in a while she will send me an email with comments on a post. Always encouraging, always generous, always crafted with word choices that make me wonder if she is a closet writer. Or a friend pretending to be someone living far away, painting canvases for a living, indulging my feverish desire to be admired, at least in a tiny way, by a Real Artist. (Lili is cringing at my choice of words here, I know it.)
When I could not pull off an encounter (she lives in Cambridge and I visited Cambridge last summer) I became convinced that she was not real.
Then, an envelope came, from Cambridge, addressed to the Law School, with a sketch and a note. The sketch was by her and of her.
But all this is background. One of the most memorable messages from her came last February, in response to photos I posted of sunlight poking through evergreen branches. There was snow on the ground a year ago and I had paused during a brisk walk, absolutely mesmerized by these streaks of light.
She wrote that as a painter, she always appreciated the subtle change in light that occurred in February. It was like no other, she wrote. Indeed, each year on the second of the month she heads out into the country, packing a picnic lunch and eating outside, with deep appreciation for the light that would be February’s gift to us all.
Until then, I heard nothing but scorn for this month of days that were still too short and weather patterns that tried our patience. Even now, as I read blogs from my sidebar and comments to Ocean, the themes of sadness, depression, frustration with this period in the calendar year come through with a vengeance.
A colleague told me a few years back that he never makes decisions in February. The month plays with our moods in the most unfavorable way.
Not for me, not any more. I did not have time to go out into the countryside today, not even to the park or to the lakefronts. But driving to the grocery store, I had to stop the car. I was passing, of all things, the cemetery and I saw it: a dazzle of mellow light, brushing the ground, the stones. Light that was steely blue, gentle and kind.
Thank you, Lili. For some twenty-eight days now I am enthralled. More than ever in my life, sweet tenderness appeals to me. In the most improbable places, I look up and I find it, this subtle, hazy face of February.