As you may remember from last year, I do not enjoy the month of February. It's not the cold as much as the darkness. It's not the short days as much as the endless, impenetrable clouds. Everything is dormant, including my brain.

Last week I reached a level of gloom that required immediate treatment with flowers. Fortunately, the George Eastman Museum has an event every year called the Dutch Connection. Evidently, Mr. Eastman once went to Holland, realized that flowers are the key to long life and happiness, and began ordering them for his mansion with the zeal of a man who knows what Rochester is like in February. In honor of this, the museum fills the atrium and conservatory with flowers for two weeks every year.

This post is not about that.

This post is about the fifteen minutes I spent wandering around the dormant gardens while I waited for the friend I was meeting. This is the kind of sky we are dealing with. Yes, I've dramatized several of these photos with a vignette effect, because to be perfectly honest, the sky was such a terribly horribly no good very bad gray, it was too depressing to look at. The vignette makes it look gothic and haunted, like Colonel Mustard is lying murdered just out of sight. The fact that I find that idea less depressing will give you a hint as to my mood lately.

Perhaps he is in here?

The lion saw it all, but can't speak. The vines have tied themselves into knots of anxiety over it.

This is an armillary sphere, which is a fancy kind of sundial. There is no telling the time by the sun in February. February is the month to which that Wallace Stevens line most applies: It was evening all afternoon.

As I wandered around imagining where Colonel Mustard might be, I decided that I would try to take photos that expressed my exact feelings about February. Ugly, colorless, featureless photos of snowless winter flora. I started off pretty well. Two horrible sights await you here:

But, annoyingly, if you start to look at things closely, even dead or dried or sleeping plants are pretty. These little geometrical pods, and the spheres at the end of their creepers, struck me as quite lovely. And you wouldn't see them in the summer.

And then I found a bird's nest. Maybe from last year, but a sign of recurrent life all the same.

And then I found a bloomin' flower, for Pete's sake.


This does not change my mind. I still hate the bleak skies of February. I looked it up to make sure I wasn't insane, and it's true: Rochester is overcast or mostly cloudy two-thirds of the days in February. Interestingly, Weather Spark tells you which places have weather most similar to what you've looked up, so I can safely say that I will never visit Stavropol, Russia, Edremit, Turkey, or Omachi, Japan in February. You will find me reading Death Comes for the Archbishop (who was probably done in by a candlestick and is sprawled two feet to the left of this flower) in New Mexico. Or, more likely, you will find me at home, staring at the ceiling, listening to that Dar Williams song on repeat. We all cope in different ways.

All of these photos are from the Eastman house grounds, except the one at the very top, which is from my neighborhood. To give you an idea of the very real trials of February, I spotted it early this month, but I didn't have a camera, and had to wait about ten days for the sun to come out for two minutes so I could run over and take a decent photo. In case you wondered, yes, those are fake cobwebs from Halloween. And yes, Colonel Mustard was just behind the hedge.

For we can still love the world

For we can still love the world

Ruining the Realism

Ruining the Realism