These are the plain days, when we return to our right minds, the way that old prodigal son did, waking among the pigs. I’m guessing that happened in January, too.

These are the plain days, when we return to our right minds, the way that old prodigal son did, waking among the pigs. I’m guessing that happened in January, too.


It’s the month we breathe free again, for gone is the December delirium.


Gone the scorekeeping, the anguished thoughts about just exactly who we exchanged with last year and should we buy them all gifts again this year?


By now we have gone through the holiday cards one last time before tossing them, or cutting out the pictures in the picture kind, or tearing them up to use their blank sides for shopping lists.


That’s what my family use to do: that third thing.


I do the second thing, saving all the pictures for the year’s photo album.


Sometimes I also count them, which can be a mistake:


This year, for example, I got about 100 cards.


I sent 200.


“So what?” I say. It’s January and January is not the month for keeping score.


January is the month for letting go and letting it happen.


Cold happens in January. Sometimes it happens in such a big way we can’t wear jewelry without causing the flesh it touches to freeze in sympathy. Last weekend my ears looked like two little dried apricots just pulled from the freezer, even without the steel posts of earrings skewering their lobes.


Cold definitely happens.


Snow also happens, as the folks in Cordova, Alaska, can testify with their house-high amounts.


But snow, too, we just have to have to let wash over us.


In fact that’s all we need do in January: endure the weather and try to get to the Super Bowl without giving ourselves coronaries.


I love the month for its blankness. It’s like the yearly planner before we fill it with all our appointments.


I love it for its rhythms, the 31 days all alike with one welcome holiday weekend smack in the middle.


I like the way we can set our alarms for 6:00 or even 5:00 and then just lie there a while in the pre-dawn hush. Because even a full month after the shortest day, it’s still not light until 7:00 and there’s something cozy in that early morning darkness.


Sometimes I rise from my bed at 5:00 and see old Orion, armed to teeth, and leaning in my window.


“Go back to bed, fool,” he seems to be saying. “Can’t you see it’s night still?”


I follow his orders and dream just one more dream.


So though the days are short still, there is something nice in that fact. It lets us not be fibbing when we tell our pillows, “I’ll be back here very soon!”


Anyway, in another four weeks, a muscular young sun will be pulling our covers right off us, impatient as a pup eager for breakfast.


That’s true, hard as it may be to believe: 


Right now, the almanac says the sun will come on the 21st of January at 7:15 a.m. in that old city of New York.


On the 21st of February it will be up by 6:35.


And by the 21st of March? By then, spring will have sprung and we’ll be two whole weeks into daylight saving time, with sunset not due until almost half past 7.


In sum, I love this month for its message that all we need do is snooze and wait, just as the seeds are doing in their deep earthy beds.


Then one day, when we’re busy with other things, we will turn and spot that one frail blossom and see that Life really is as ever-regenerating as the poets have always told us.


Write to Terry at terrymarotta@verizon.net or at P.O. Box 270 Winchester MA 01890. Visit her blog Exit Only daily at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com.