Something Special about Nothing

By Matthew K. Weiland

January is a gloriously mundane month – and mundane in the best sense of the much-maligned word. Not boring or tedious nor droning or monotonous (like this sentence might initially appear). Rather…Enjoyably routine. Divinely ordinary.  Blessedly commonplace. Beautifully dull. – No social obligations. No high expectations. No sleep deprivations. – Instead, small hydrations. Quiet meditations. Epic hibernations. Maybe some polar exhilarations. – Oh mighty Janus! Embrace us in your nothingness!!!

The Lake Institute January Dusk | Courtesy of MKW

Being a fairly orthodox disciple of the circadian rhythms, there is an inherent awareness and appreciation of the spiritual balance in the lunar flow, of seasonal norms, of the nuance which distinguishes one month from the next. – Certainly no one wants January in July, or even snowfall on Opening Day. – But January indisputably deserves her due. Pound-for-pound, for what the month is, how it unfolds, January holds her own among her eleven preening peers. – Criminy, how hard is it being June and October? – But try toting a brand that’s perceived to have the sex appeal of a tundra and see how easy it is to pull off. (And that is not to condone or promote tundra-shaming.) – January, she effortlessly makes the most of her resources and glistens with crystalline splendor.

And this isn’t about being contrarian or ironic or rooting for the underdog – I am soooo over irony – but rather about appreciating what this initial month offers, accepting her on her own terms, and making the most out of her darkness and chill and smoldering charm.

Debra Tate-Sears | Click on Pic

The month of quiet. Of clarity. Cloud cover overcast and the coziness of it all. The insulation. Flannel and fleece. Blankies and pillows…Snowfall…The sound of someone shoveling the walk again in the gray dawn before work. – Breakfast nooks. Tea and oranges. Cinnamon toast. Quaker Oats. Cream of Wheat (or at least Cream of Wheat commercials).

January is a Zen time, when there are no expectations, and thus no disappointment. In fact, the whole month is a great reason to bail on practically anything, regardless of occasion. – No one’s counting on you to show up anywhere. No one cares if you don’t have your A-game. No one cares how much you sleep. Or if you stay in your jammies all day. – There is quiet ritual and routine in January, yielding small satisfactions…Mindfully folding clothes. The warm water and soap suds of doing dishes. The sectioning of grapefruit.

Every building looks warm in January. Libraries. Barbershops. Diners. Art galleries. Bowling alleys. Rehearsal spaces. Workshops. Evening classrooms. Church basements. Donuts and pancakes after Sunday services.

January offers ice rinks. Toboggan runs. Broom hockey. Ski lodges. Deep bare woods through which it seems you can see for years. – January has Saturday afternoon college basketball and hockey games, thousands of small campus gymnasiums and auditoriums where a party’s happening.

And, when the stars align, January can be a provider of great bonus. The any day of January can become a hot blues jam night at a corner pub, windows fogged and iced over, neon lighting up a borealis night. For those who do venture into that cold good darkness, there can be serendipity, festivity, and kindred spirits. January can prove exceptionally romantic. – Sauces and soups. Red wine and stout ale. Stillness. Incense. Smokey goodness. Oscar Peterson on college radio. Firelight flickering through a bourbon bottle. – From the opening sequence of Nobody’s Fool to the closing credits of Groundhog Day, there exists beneath the ice and chill a warmth and allure that can happen almost anytime – Mainly because you never expect it to. Not in January.

“When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. – Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. – But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
– Phil Connors, meteorologist, WPBH-TV9 Pittsburgh

So here’s to the lone wolf, spiriting through the cold and snowy wood, howling at her January moon. Here’s to shadows cast on pristine fields of midnight snow. Here’s to the diamonds on frozen ponds. Here’s to the never-ending nap. Here’s to now.

And maybe, after Valentines Day and come conference tournament time in late February and early March, we will have earned our thaw, will have earned our place at the dance, will have earned our St. Patrick’s Day buzz because we will have embraced January and made the most of what she offers. – On that day, we will be rested. Hydrated. Thoughtful. Smiling. Productive. Maybe a lot of things written. Maybe a lot of things read. Maybe a lot of things done. Ready for something more for we will have made the most of the special nothing.

Here’s to January.

Viva la Janvier!!! Bon Iver!!!!!

Northern Exposure End Scene: More Light from Markus Avrelius on Vimeo.