Bay Reflections

 Vol. 11, No. 1

January 2-8, 2003

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January: Our Doorway of Opportunity
by Steve Carr

Winter has hit us right between the eyes with barrels of both ice and snow. The trees have been laid bare like skeleton silhouettes. Holiday shopping had us all running on empty. It just feels like it’s time to crawl under the covers and hibernate for awhile, maybe until March.

But believe it or not, the New Year is when Mother Earth begins turning over a new leaf and the cycle of rebirth begins anew. You might not notice the subtle changes, but they are happening all around us, like a grand symphony playing softly in the background of our lives.

First off, since December 21, the days are getting longer. Each day we gain a few precious minutes of daylight and warmth. That, in turn, triggers a myriad of natural miracles.

Bugs in the mud are slowly transforming themselves into something special for the upcoming mating season.

Trees and plants are busily sucking in the welcome moisture of winter and brewing their internal juices to create the leaves and flowers of spring.

Fish are still quite active, even if most fishermen aren’t. Record walleye and chain pickerel have been snagged around the Bay on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, back in their dark dens, black bear sows snuggle with their young, dreaming about the first thaws of winter.

Most of the rifle and archery seasons for bear, turkey and deer have closed, and it’s time to light a big fire, pour a shot of Jack Black and start telling stories about that trophy buck or wily gobbler that somehow managed to get away.

The beginning of January is also the time when birders do the national bird survey, often referred to as the Christmas Bird Count. In every nook and cranny of America, from Alaska to New York City, birders cover their assigned territories on a chosen day and count every bird they see from dawn till dusk. County by county and state by state, a grand total is tabulated in a national atlas prepared by the Ornithological Society.

Speaking of birds, bald eagle numbers peak along the Chesapeake Bay in early January. The territorial bickering of December gives way to a nest building frenzy centered on the promise of a brand new generation.

At about the same time our football heroes are teeing it up in the Bowl game extravaganzas, white-tail deer begin dropping their antlers and venturing forth from their secret hiding places in the woods. Hunting season is but a memory, and the white tails are free once again to roam the countryside unmolested.

Farmers get antsy as the days grow longer. Busy work takes over as they start preparing their equipment for planting season and cut back the edges of their fields to make brush piles. Seed catalogues become the preferred reading, and talk around the dinner table turns to new crops and weather forecasts.

Watermen mend their crab pots, fix that old valve that’s been sticking on the work boat’s carburetor and say a silent prayer that next season will be better than the last.

City dwellers and suburbanites may be less in touch with the earth’s natural rhythms. But we too feel the undeniable tug of change and the need to renew our spirits for the upcoming year. That’s why we come up with things like New Year’s resolutions or promises to go on a diet. It’s our way of recharging the batteries and preparing for the next round and warmer weather.

January is like the gate or doorway into the new year. In fact, the month is named after the Roman’s most revered god, Janus. Folks often prayed to Janus when they were embarking upon some new venture. He was the gatekeeper in Roman mythology, and January was meant to symbolize the passage from old to new. Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, one face looking forward and the other back — and he carried a big set of keys.

Many important events have taken place in January. The first American presidential election was held in 1789. Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Gold was discovered in California in 1848. The Civil Service system was established in 1883. Transcontinental telephone service began in 1915. And John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962.

So take heart and remember: the weather may be a little cold and dreary, but there’s still a whole lot going on both inside and out. And there’s no time like the present to open up a brand new door.

Copyright 2003
Bay Weekly