One January morning walking around my SW neighborhood for reasons better left unsaid I headed up the unfinished gravel road. There’s a rut so bad cars can’t pass through without risking axel damage. At the top of this “street,” the empty lot behind a chain link fence beckoned. I wandered up the driveway towards a pile of concrete slabs and turned to look at the pit. It was wide, and deep, ten feet would be an exaggeration but it struck me as a good sized hole. At the bottom were kitchen cabinets and a wire shelving unit. I was shocked to see two throw pillows also tossed in the mud. The sight complimented my bleak mood.
After photographing the pit I created a black and white image that I posted on Instagram. I called it, “The Pit of Despair.” The dump site that emerged grated on me but the pit put things in perspective. No matter how low things get pits of despair will be there exhaling their misery and exposing their void. I tried imagining the house that may have filled that space before it crumbled and was carted away. Now this giant divot would never be anything more than a pit or an opportunistic junk refuge. Dirt wouldn’t retain water to make a swimming hole.
As I write this, January ticks into the next month. Thoughts I had never considered have grown into a February philosophy. It started with a Portland Monthly article I read in an emergency room waiting room. I spent hours there wondering if things would be okay while finding out February was not the month I thought it was. Yes there’s Valentines Day but that has its misery and President’s Day is a holiday spent wondering what you’re supposed to be celebrating. I discovered February’s wintery discontent of grime, gray and grind.
Rich Reese helped me recognize there’s a February Survival Philosophy. It’s all in the article but despite any possible positive moments during this month, it’s still a dreaded time. We have to be grateful it ends early. It could have been those feelings of being stuck in an emergency room when I encountered thoughts that added to the gravitas. Reece’s advice boiled down to enduring the nastiness and not making hasty, irrational decisions as a result and not letting the season make you snappy. Consider that someone’s funk can be rooted in their own brand of “Februaryitis.” It’s nothing personal. Maybe they haven’t done the same soul searching that would bring them to the wisdom of Rich Reece.
In the middle this deep thinking, I came across an article from a copy of a magazine called Yoga Journal that I found in a Multnomah Village recycling bin. The article recommended people find a place to center themselves offering examples like sitting on a rock in nature. I know what you’re thinking, the Portland Orbit has resorted to writing second rate Yoga Journal style articles to boost circulation. Regardless, I like this idea but I prefer one sacred spot. I had a place where I sought refuge a long time ago, a giant tree on the edge of a golf course. It was a place of calm when life got heavy. Last summer I painted a picture at a Larry Yes Free Painting Event downtown. From my imagination, a psychedelic tree on the edge of a field emerged, it could have been a subconscious nod to this place I’d known. Sure your spot should bring tranquility. My Pit of Despair is the opposite but if I don’t find myself at the bottom of it, I’m doing all right and it merits repeated visits.
Every day doesn’t have to be a battle but February can exacerbate feelings of living in survival mode. Last year I instituted a February tradition that I hope to continue provided I make it through the month. I celebrated the month’s end by buying a pair of cheap dress shoes, shoes I’d have no problem letting get beat up. After a year they are scuffed, torn and frayed. They reflect the kind of year its been. Chinese tariffs could kill this tradition or its death could come from my disinterest in shopping. I have yet to find a name for my pretend holiday. I just know the end of the month is worth celebrating. Please consider this public service announcement. Take “Februaritis” seriously and reward yourself if you can hang on until March.