November 21, 2001


Winter is arriving at this very moment. A cold front is working its way across New England to the Seacoast. The early morning forecast said the high would be forty two degrees today. But it was fifty eight degrees when I checked. Even could not get it right. But now, two hours later, the temperature has dropped to forty four degrees. And the forecast holds the possibility of snow.

We have been blessed with spectacular weather here in New England for the last three months. It made me wonder what the big deal was about winter. It has not even felt Fall-like. Maybe winter would be similarly postponed or even skipped all together. Maybe I could leave the heavy jackets in the back of the closet. Maybe the sun will continue to shine every day.

No. Today started dark and got darker. The sky resembles the stirred froth of the nearby sea. The trees that have held tight to last leaves of color are surrendering to the wind and the rain. The empty trunks and limbs stand and sway with no excitement. Spring is a long way off.

New Englanders pretend to like winter, but for most that is a big lie. We depend on the holidays in November and December to get us through the first part. And then we look for some piece of hope to help us endure January and February. Maybe it is skiing. Maybe it is Florida. Maybe it is the mall. If only we can make it to March. But of course March turns out to be the worst month of all. Spring does not arrive and the world turns to mud.

So a long winter begins this morning. I am working hard not to be governed by that thought. I want to ignore it, to rise above it. I want to say that I am strong enough to get through it with a perky attitude. This year will feel different. I will not feel house bound when it gets cold and the streets are filled with slush. I will not feel put upon by lousy weather. It may be storming outside, but inside I will be happy and cheery. I am bigger than the weather. It should not affect my life. I will be strong.

But I know better. I know that there will be some additional struggles for me. People ask me if I have Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by a lack of light. I reply no, I can be miserable in all seasons. I am an equal opportunity employer when it comes to suffering.

In truth, my problem today is not the weather. My problem is that I am tired, and tired is not a good place for me to be. But I have decided that today’s malaise should be blamed on the weather. In fact, it is the fault of the weather reporting service. I am mad at them for getting the forecast wrong. I cannot find anyone else to get angry at, so they will do. And by the way, I am not angry, only tired. And if the power had not gone out in the middle of my writing this, I would be done by now. Perhaps not as tired. No I am not angry.

And I am not sad. I do not know why the Chopin piece that my wife is now playing on the piano makes me want to cry. I should be happy. I have no reason to be sad. No I am not sad or angry. I am only unhappy. Unhappy does not have anything to do with feeling. It is just a place of lack of joy. That’s all. I know that those feelings are overrated. To live with a lack is better than living in those distasteful, negative feelings.

I guess that I really have it all figured out now. I will just skate (a cold, winter metaphor) through the next few months. I will be fine, just fine.

August 20, 2001


August, the eighth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. Did you know that it was originally the sixth month in the Roman year, which began with March, and was originally named Sextilis (from Latin sextus, “sixth”)? So if things had not been shuffled, then August probably now would be called the month of Sex. That certainly would have changed things!

It was given its present name in honor of the emperor Augustus. To make it equal to the fifth month, the name of which had been changed from Quintilis to Julius in honor of Julius Caesar, a day was taken from the month of February and added to August. So that means that before the name change leap year would have had February 30. It would have been great to be born on February 30.

Do you think that Roman school kids had to start worrying about going back to school in the month of Augustus? Did they worry about how they would do at roman numerals? Did they hate Latin as much as later generations did? Did they take aqueducts for granted? What kind of really old stuff did they study for history? These are important questions.

What kind of songs did they sing when they were getting ready to return to school? In the classic movie “Billy Madison,” the great modern day philosopher/songwriter Adam Sandler gave us this anthem: “ Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m no fool. I’ve got my lunch box packed, my shoes tied tight. I hope I don’t get in a fight.”

Which brings us to September (the same in English or Latin) – the month that follows August and the time of our next Gathering. You will not have to pack a lunch to be there, but bring a little food if you can. And you will not have anything to prove to Dad or anyone else. Just come as you are. And hopefully there will be no fights. See you there.

May 20, 2001


June – yes it is June already. Well, it is not exactly June yet, but it is about to be June. It seems like only yesterday that we were in the throes of the colds of February.

So what does June have to say for itself. Summer begins in June. There is also one of those equinox days. It has to do with the tilt of various things or maybe one thing, the earth. Does the sun tilt? I am not sure which equinox it is, but I know that day and night are finally equal. And one of them will now get longer. I do not know which one. It does not seem to matter that much to me. No matter what, the daylight is too short for me.

My diary says that June 4 is a holiday in Ireland. I have no idea what the holiday is, but I am sure that the Irish will celebrate. June 14 is Flag Day. I am not sure that anything happens on Flag Day. I think that this year I will watch out for it. To our north, in Quebec June 24 is St. Jean Baptiste Day. I am sure that he must be someone important, but I champion my parochialism by refusing to find out who he is or was.

Bunker Hill Day is in June and is a holiday in Suffolk County only. It is just another reason for a day off for state government employees.

Let’s not forget Father’s Day on June 17. That is the day when all of the children who made a big deal about their mother on Mother’s Day in May guiltily plan something for their dad, even though the one shortcoming of each dad is that he is not a mom. Oh yes, children love their dads, but they looove their moms. I used to always give my father a hat for Father’s Day. My children have never given me a hat. Are they ungrateful? Of course, I have never told them that I would like a hat. No, if they really loved me they would figure it out.

June – a simple word given to us by the Romans. June bugs. June Jones (football coach.) And my favorite, June Cleaver. After all, I was the Beaver. He and I were the same age and looked alike. I would have traded for June Cleaver anytime.