Everywhere I turn, tv-wise and elsewhere, there is much being made about Leap Day. I don’t think I ever thought about the day quite as much as I have in the lead up to it, now just hours away. It was Leap Year that was always in my mind. That calendrical anomaly of Gregorian gerrymandering in which a day was added to the year and we all accepted it. 365 instead of 366. But Leap Day. How would we treat this extra day that has been tacked onto the end of February?
Today, I overheard a conversation between two women, presumably friends, who were discussing this rare event, the extra day. Perhaps you should propose to your boyfriend, the one with shorter hair said with her American English to her friend with longer hair who responded in her British English, “Who, me? That’s a laugh.” Not too far off, however, according to the lore of Leap Day traditions.
Earlier in the day, while waiting for an Americano at a Caffe Nero near the north end of the Waterloo Bridge, I overheard a young man who looked to be in his twenties enthusiastically regaling his older, female friend with his plans for his day off. She seemed less enthused than he, but this uninspired response did not seem to dampen his spirits. It’s Leap Day, after all.
The general spirit seems to be that when given an extra day such as this, we might do that which we might not otherwise do. But I wonder: do we know ourselves too well to let ourselves do something out of the ordinary? Dare we break our rhythms and routines? And to what degree? A change of socks or a different flavor tea for some; a new language or whole identity for others. And something in between for the rest of us, I reckon.
In the spirit of leaping, I reprint here the poem by W.H. Auden I originally included in a post made just as I was preparing to leave my New York apartment for the year. That seems like a lifetime ago, and I can only help that I withstand this steady seduction that London is performing on me so I might return to that city once again.
But tomorrow, Leap Day, is a different story. Which story, that’s yet to be seen…
And now, without further ado, Mr. Auden:
Leap Before You Look
The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.
Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.
The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.
The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.
Much can be said for social savior-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.
A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.
– W. H. Auden