by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 16, 2000
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- This is the month when I look out the window at nothing in particular for as long as it takes to breathe a sigh, slowly turn away and get on with it.
Get on with what? I don't know. This is January and I get through it.
There's a name for this: the doldrums. If I were a yacht, you'd say I was becalmed for days on end. Yet, I'm far from where the winds are light or non-existent and the weather is hot and sticky. Like the yachtsmen, though, my internal barometer tells me a squall could strike at any moment.
That's about as close as I can get to describing what is a month of travel for many. It's a time to kick back, get past, lay low, and just take it one day at a time.
My earliest memories of my mother are of her looking out the kitchen's back door, hands in her apron pockets, staring blankly through the glass, perhaps absently running her fingers over the gathering droplets. I can't be sure it was January but I've struck the same pose(leaving out the apron!) every January I can remember.
If I were writing about any other month, I would have stories to tell. But not about January. All the watching and waiting at the window during Januaries past was done blankly, as it was earlier today. In the moments of quiet reverie, I am not looking back; I am not planning ahead. I am just being. I am feeling well; I am not sad. I am merely subdued ... and there's a faintly ominous feeling a squall could strike at any moment. There are those who have taken these feelings to their doctors who then might call it one of the functional somatic illnesses, like chronic fatigue syndrome. They then outfit their homes with prescribed(or merely advertised) lighting beds, spend time absorbing the rays, and, supposedly, feel better for it. Is it possible the draw to the window is nature's way of providing what is needed?
I don't dread January the way I dread August, predictably hot with gnats in my ears and nostrils. January just comes and by the time the last vestige of holidays is past, the walks to the window begins as with a gravitational pull.
He'll say: "What are you looking at?"
I'll answer: "Nothing."
"What are you thinking about?"
"Then, come on over and sit down."
"In a minute."
And so it goes. I think now of Janus, the ancient Roman god of doorways, for whom the month of January was named. He was the Twofold God, who looks both ways: to the inside and the outside, to the past and to the future, to the old year and the new year, to the old order and the new order. He proclaimed the inviolability of the house, the entries and the exits. I notice my January aimlessness is always at a doorway and not directed to the window over the kitchen sink or the one beyond the living room couch. As with my mother, It's with a full-body slouch that I lean against the doorway looking through the glass. Whatever it is, I know the answer lies not in a doctor's office nor on a psychiatrist's couch. Rather, it's what poems are made of. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow understood the syndrome, for lack of a better word, when he wrote these lines in "The Day is Done":
I see the lights of the village
That's as close to the feeling I describe as anything I might add. Longfellow spoke of day's end; perhaps it's at year's end we face in two directions -- subconsciously longing for what has been and hesitantly yearning for what is coming. It's not an unpleasant feeling, this standstill. Although I feel somewhat becalmed through January, I know the wind will pick up. It always does.