James Lileks
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Now that the cold, thick slab of January is behind us, we are delivered unto fleet-footed February, which will whisk us to the frozen peat bogs of March. What might we want from this month that we haven't had so far in 2020?

Sun! The previous month was one of the cloudiest on record, although it's not like woolly mammoths were keeping detailed meteorological records when glaciers covered half the state. The records go back only to 1963, which makes you wonder what changed then to make them start to track this sort of thing.

Perhaps some guy at the weather bureau suddenly sat up with a look of concern.

"Hey, are we keeping track of how many days are cloudy, and how many are sunny?"

"No. We're also not keeping track of whether Bob had ham on rye for lunch every Tuesday or just a cheese sandwich. There's a lot of things we're not keeping track of. Who cares?"

"I'm just thinking of 21st-century meteorologists, living in a time of 24-hour weather channels on TV. They'll need stats like this to fill airtime and make people think they are living through something unusual."

"OK, nameless hero of yet unborn weather announcers, let's keep track. "

I didn't notice the lack of sun, perhaps because I don't mind cloudy winters. When the sun is brightly shining in January I feel as if I should be out doing things: schussing along on cross-country skis, for instance, while yodeling "Dominque-a-nique-a-nique" like the singin' nun. But that's not my style.

The sun in January is a slacker, anyway. It's doing just the minimum. It's like, "I'm going to work from home today." The pallor of cloudy days fits the mood of the month, which resembles the second hour of a three-hour dental procedure.

My wife feels the loss of the sun much more than I do, so I got her one of those lamps that keeps people from wintertime despond. The other day, she turned it on to improve her mood, and I'm not saying it was overly bright, but I was upstairs in another room with the door closed, and I could see the bones in my hand.

"If you point that out the window," I said, "people will show up expecting a movie premiere. Does it have a lower setting? You don't want to start out with the highest possible level of happiness. Maybe turn it down to wary optimism?"

It did make a difference. If you found January a grim grind, you might try one of these lamps, in case February also is overcast. Me, I plan to spend as much time in front of my personal light box as possible this month. It's much bigger than my wife's, and while it doesn't always improve my mood, it takes my mind off winter.

Mine is called a television set.