February, the shortest month on the calendar, often feels like the longest. It has been aptly dubbed “foreverary.” Winter snows still blanket the landscape, and spring seems far away. As COVID concerns linger in early 2022, our days are spent in obscurity.
Many artists, labouring alone, have known a similar loneliness. Vincent Van Gogh, his talent unappreciated in his lifetime, lamented that, “A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.”
The poet Dante is feeling so weary as he makes his pilgrimage through the Inferno, but his guide Virgil will have none of it.
“Up on your feet!” This is no time to tire!”
my Master cried. “The man who falls asleep
will never waken fame, and his desire
and all his life drift past him like a dream
and the traces of his memory fade from time
like smoke in air, or ripples on a stream.”
(Inferno, Canto 24, 49-51, Hollander)
Though we may never experience their acceptance, we are to be faithful in exercising our gifts. Van Gogh lived in poverty on the fringes of society, and Dante was exiled from his beloved city of Florence. If they could see the scope of their art in the world today, they would be amazed.
Jesus tells the ordinary men who followed him that they, too, must be “up and going.” They have been with him for months as they trekked through the Judean countryside. They have the unique vantage point of eyewitnesses. They suffer through his crucifixion and thrill at his resurrection. Their accounts have a kindling power, though they will suffer for the telling.
When we’re caught in the doldrums, when the February blahs threaten to affect our mood, then it’s time to faithfully do the next right thing. It may seem trifling and insignificant to others. No one else may see what you see.
Who knows what will succeed and what will fail until we make an attempt? When we write a poem, when we create art, we plant a seed for the future that may very well blossom in another place, in another time, for someone yet unborn.