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Whip it Good!
by Mark Smith

The Answer is Blowin' in the WindI have a watch which I have worn since I received it as a high school graduation present in 1972. That's how old I am. It's a heavy old self-winding Seiko skin diver's watch. I have worn it so many years that I am quite attached to it, and do not know how to behave when the asymmetry of its weight no longer hangs on my left wrist. I have run marathons wearing the watch, and can even explain my quirky arm movements and perhaps even my bad posture as being-by products of the watch. Nowadays they are pushing the self-winding models under the new and trendier name of "kinetic" watches. I believe the ad says something like "Someday all watches will be made this way." Well, we'll see.

When February ends I must manually push the stem of my watch in, three times, to make it go around to March 1, otherwise I am three days off, due to the short month. Remember, this is a self winding antique that I wear. There is no preinstalled digital memory of how the years will play out. All adjustments depend upon the vigilance of the wearer. Today, March 2, I looked at the watch for the first time this month and discovered the three day lag. Because of deeply embedded encrustation and grunge in the stem, this adjustment is an operation best accomplished with a hefty device, such as a 16 penny nail. A chore, you might think, to have to fool with setting the date on the watch. You might think that, but you'd be wrong, because it is actually with a feeling of pleasure at having cheated old man winter out of three days that I push the stem three times, as I magically watch the date change from Feb 30 to March 2, knowing that I have managed to get through one of the longest short months, and can now face the most drawn out month of them all, March, the month that promises much but delivers little.

Would you prefer that I wax lyrical on the beauties of nature, all nature, all year long, rather than give you my honest opinion, to wit, that March is not all it's cracked up to be? You can't tell me that the Lindal Cedar Homes of Traverse City--Build your dream...Indians who lived here before we built our little picket fence town were thrilled about March. No, they were living on squash and waiting for better days, sick of being cooped up and crotch deep in snow. There, I've said it. Publish and be damned! Did Keats ever write an ode to March? Check it out. I don't think so. When September comes around everybody is sad to have to say goodbye to summer, but do you ever hear anybody in March actually say, "Whew, where did the winter go?" I didn't think so. March is something to be "got through" and I'm just the guy to do it.

March is the month for cleaning sock drawers and playing blubbery on your lips. When I'm an old fart I will definitely be "out of here" during March, down in Florida, riding a big three-wheeler and grinning like a goon. "Be seeing you," I'll wave to my elderly neighbors as I pass by their house trailers, perhaps aware of the irony of my reference, but then again perhaps entirely sincere in my bonhomie. Who can say? I might be half the man I am now, mentally, which would still put me quite a ways above an amoeba, but maybe I'd be just as sharp as ever, but nicer to be with, in which case I might actually enjoy the company of my peers - but I doubt it. These things are hard to know about, but I think I can safely predict that, come March, old man Smith will be happily ensconced in a warmer clime. "Let it melt, let it melt, let it melt," I will sing to myself, with my knobbly old white legs propped up on the railing of my tiny front porch and my hands locked behind my head, mobility permitting. I'll be happy as a clam.

Meanwhile, in the here and now, I busy myself with long forgotten and long delayed house chores, like sorting old sock drawers and reading old junk mail, sorted some weeks ago in a half-assed way, then tossed aside for future sorting. God, we die a thousand deaths with junk mail, and in March we face the music. What better to do? As I sort I find a number of "limited time only" offers which I had waveringly set aside in December and January, thinking my head would clear later and the decision to apply for credit card x or magazine y would become easy. As I look again at these offers I realize I was right, the decision has become ridiculously easy, because they have all expired, and I am, thankfully, too late to have to worry about it. I can turn my back on all of it and go on, fast forwarding my life just a little bit, three days to be precise, optimistic that even though there's "fire in the hole, but nothing left to burn" I have probably whipped winter, and whipped it good!

Also by Mark Smith
Redemption Songs
The Art of Teaching in the Age of Information.
Learning the Language
back to school...
Frozen cattle, 12 feet of snow and winter survival skills.
Mark Smith is a teacher at Leland Public School. Among other things, he edits and webmasters a journal of student and teacher writing, The Beechnut Review.

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