Thursday, February 01, 2007

On color feasts, dog years, and Leap Day, etc.

Amanda Witt's family recently relocated to a snowy area, and all that whiteness is getting to her. She's fighting back in a wonderful way (to my way of thinking):

And so I was driven, two days ago, into the arms of defiant El Greco. Today I give you Cezanne, along with an invitation: Bloggers, post something bright, something colorful, warm, and heartening, and let me know; non-bloggers (unbloggers?), if you run across something colorful and cheery in the next week or two, send me a link to it. I'll post the links, and we'll have a color feast to tide us over until Valentine's Day.

I don't know why, but this made me think of one of my favorite bits from The Pirates of Penzance. The Pirate King has come to explain to the hapless (but dutiful) Frederic why he isn't out of his apprenticeship after all:

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February,
twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.
Through some singular coincidence – I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy –
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year, on the twenty-ninth of February;
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re only five and a little bit over!

OK, OK, I know why I thought of it. First of all, because of the idea that February is shorter because it's beastly, and it's not nice to add a day to it every fourth year, but you might as well laugh at it. Secondly, because I'd just read this other Wittingshire post on dog years. Personally, I'd like for the concept of "dog years" to become one of those things that dissolves in the mists of time. I don't find it very useful as an adult, and it confused the stuffing out of me as a kid. But the post is funny, and I got to wondering if that household has ever tackled the ins and outs of the folks who have their birthday on Leap Day. I seem to remember being concerned, when younger, about people who only had "real" birthdays every four years. From a child's perspective, it seemed the sort of thing that might scar you for life, being subjected to faux birthdays or, worse, being asked to stoicly not have a birthday party three years out of four. Horrors! ;)

Beyond that, it just seemed a riddle, that some years were longer than others, and Feb. 29 sometimes was and sometimes simply wasn't.

Then I found out that George Washington (along with a lot of other people, of course) had two birthdays, because the calendar got changed during his lifetime. That really threw me. Calendars, to that point, had seemed eternal truths, or something along that line. (A very wrong assumption, as it turned out.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh, Kathryn!

Kathryn Judson said...

Jonathan and Amanda, Whew! I was afraid my suggestion of tackling Leap Day might backfire. Glad you enjoyed the post. (And, honestly, I can't make it through a February without singing snippets of songs from the Pirates of Penzance. Kevin Kline, as the Pirate King, was fall-down funny in that show, especially in that scene.) :)

Donna-Jean said...

Too funny. I'm just glad we chose to get married on February 28th, and not the 29th - or how would we calculate our anniversary?? :-)

Kathryn Judson said...

Donna-Jean, I hadn't even thought about wedding anniversaries. My goodness! (And thanks for the laugh!)