February: Shiny Shoes and Changing Light


The alphabet of
the trees

is fading in the
song of the leaves

from Botticellian Trees by William Carlos Williams

February always arrives before we expect it. The year ends with the hurly burly of Christmas – a hectic frenzy of family fun, endless food, puddings, crackers, decorations, champagne – and then there is the New Year. January rollicks past leaving a trail of wet footprints, sea shells, sandy thongs, sunburnt backs and noses, clothes lines garlanded with swimming costumes and beach towels, seafood feasts, cold beers…and before you know it, in steps February. She makes a quiet but sure footed entrance and suddenly we notice that she is there and the year has started in earnest.

Children are back in school uniform, lunch boxes are being packed, people in business suits sip lattes in front of laptops at café tables, young mothers push prams purposefully around the lake, personal trainers jog alongside their clients after work…

This used to be a time when I gathered my books, pens and thoughts together to start the teaching year. I opened my Staff Diary and scribbled up my first lesson plans. Now that I am retired, I notice February in other ways. I notice the shift of light (from brash gold to pale lemon) on trees and water, cygnets and ducklings that are almost full grown, a spray of butter yellow leaves in summer green branches, dove grey morning skies before warm blue days, a hint of chill in the air at twilight… February brings with it a bitter sweet reminder that summer is passing but autumn, in this city, will be quite splendid.

February also brings a frisson of anticipation, in our extended family, because it is a month of birthdays. My mother’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day, my birthday is three days after that and my sister’s birthday is less than week after mine. When we were young children my sister and I always shared a birthday party. We had new party frocks, shiny shoes, wide hair ribbons and a cake, especially decorated, for each of us. That was back in 1960s Singapore, in a tropical garden with a tree house, a table laden with beautifully prepared party food and dozens of guests. Nowadays we celebrate our birthdays in Sydney restaurants or at family dinners.

February is a time to lie on our backs and gaze at the sky through a pattern of tree branches, it is a time to stroll by the lake and eat our last ice cream cones of summer, it is a time to pop on our shiny party shoes and get ready to dance our way into autumn…

So it’s February again
and I think of you
and me in party frocks
tapping our patent
leather shoes
through this gift wrapped
candle bright month
blowing out our birthdays
and stepping into another year of

© Anita Patel, 2015

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