What to do in the meantime

Friday 9 January 2015 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — the Christmas season draws to a close

This weekend, with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Christmas cycle in the Church’s calendar officially comes to an end. The wheel of the year turns again. We will soon find ourselves in that in-between period called Ordinal Time. It’s not a season at all. It falls between seasons. Some call it Ordinary Time. We can look back at our Christmas season or we can look forward to Easter, but we must live in the meantime.

The ancients called this month “January” after their god Janus. Janus had the ability to look at the past and at the future simultaneously. This ability had its good points. The bad thing about it was that Janus was forced to ignore the present. He was too busy looking elsewhere. We cannot live in the past nor can we live in the future, but only in the present. Each day has its gifts, even in the month of January on Cape Cod.

It’s time once again, dear readers, for the “January blahs.” Call it the “same old, same old,” if you so please. Nobody I know (with one exception) dreams of the up-coming grand celebration of Groundhog Day. I’m pretty sure there’ll be no dancing in the streets of Falmouth on Groundhog Day; no parades.

The first full moon of the year occurred five days ago. It hung ice-white and brittle over our chapel on the harbor. It’s called the “Wolf Moon.” Coyotes I have seen on Cape Cod — wolves, not so much. We still call it the Full Wolf Moon. Folklore maintains that a bright first moon of the year promises summer rains and a bountiful autumn harvest. We shall see.

Perhaps those most susceptible to the malaise known as the “January blahs” live on Cape Cod. There’s nothing more forlorn, some say, than a barren wind-swept sand dune in winter. Cape Codders, however, look more closely each day at the world around them. 

The worst winter in people’s memories tends to be the one immediately preceding. I remember last winter well. In a word — snow. There were days I couldn’t get out the front door of the rectory due to the drifting snow. The problem is that greyhounds, like all other dogs, need to go outside several times a day. I would sneak them through the labyrinthine parish complex and out through the main lobby. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

Winter weather on Cape Cod is controversial. Opinions will vary. This is due to the fact that the weather can be different from town to town. It can be snowing over the canal, but sunny on this side of the bridge. It can be raining in Eastham, sleeting in Falmouth, and dry as a bone in Pocasset. This is the reason Cape Codders think it best never to discuss the weather. Opposing opinions can both be correct. Anyway, why argue your point? Sooner or later spring will arrive and then everyone will be happy for it means that summer can’t be far behind. 

A winter’s day on Cape Cod is for the birds. I mean that literally. There are resident mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, and cardinals, among others. For some reason, I’ve seen few blue jays recently. And, for one reason or another, there are fewer gulls drifting overhead. Wherever they’ve gone, I’m sure they’ll be back.

Of course, there are the ever-present murders of crows. I mean that, too, literally. A flock of crows is called a “murder” for some reason now lost in the convoluted development of the English language. I like crows. A jet black crow against the background of sparklingly white snow is a sight to behold. I keep this opinion to myself for obvious reasons.

Bird feeders hang by the hundreds from the stunted scrub pines and oaks on the Cape. Every backyard has at least one or two. Cape Codders are so very fond of garden birds in winter that there are entire stores dedicated to selling nothing but birdseed and related products. 

Every so often, while out with the greyhounds, I see the hawk. He sits majestically on the steeple cross, surveying his kingdom. As long as he stays there “just looking,” I’m fine with that. 

This fall, while trimming some overgrown shrubs in front of the rectory, I discovered a long-forgotten birdfeeder attached to the wall outside the office window. It had been there a long time. I don’t know who placed it there, but one of my predecessors must have enjoyed spending a few quiet moments on a Cape Cod winter’s day peering through the window in the church office. It was a platform feeder, which is especially favored by cardinals. A wise and prudent pastor always keeps a sharp eye out for any passing cardinal, if you know what I mean. 

Christmas is over. Lent will come, and then Easter, as it always does. Those who have eyes to see will savor the meantime. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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