"January is the quietest month in the garden, but that does not mean nothing is happening there. The soil is absorbing sunlight and rainfall, tilled-under fodder is converted into nutrients for the next crop (and) tunneling earthworms aerate the soil and wait for the seeds and roots to come."
- Rosalie Muller Wright
Allegedly, looking both ways is exactly what the two-faced Greek god Janus was able to do, and why this "god of gates and doors" - which also swing both ways - is the reason we call the first month of the year "January."
You probably knew this already, but did you also know this is the same reason the caretaker of those gateways and doors is called a "janitor"?
Moving linguistically along, it's easy to understand why such a vivid image has been a popular cultural icon throughout history and to the present day. Examples include the "double-crossing" Iago in Shakespeare's Othello, who utters the oath, "by Janus," when lying; the woman with two faces in Stephen King's first Dark Tower novel, whom King calls "a veritable Janus;" the statue of Janus in historian Teabring's library in the book and film The da Vinci Code, indicating he is "two-faced;" and the villainous character "Two-Face" in the Batman series, who goes by the alias "Janus."
Not that I'm suggesting everyone who looks backward and forward at the same time is two-faced. It's just that I found this information too interesting to keep to myself, or maybe I just wanted to pique your interest for the idea that January is the logical month to look back to see where we've been, and look forward to what we hope the new year will bring.
We might call it inventory month, or at least the time to gather those records and receipts from 2010 we'll need for filling out our tax forms by April 15.
But it's too early for tax talk. What I really want to talk about are two e-mails I've received, the first comparing the new year to what was happening in the country a century ago, and the second suggesting what the headlines might look like 20-30 years from now. The former will make us count our blessings, and the latter, more tongue-in-cheek, will make us pray those things never happen.
First, as we look back 100 years, this is what the "good old days" were really like:
- Average life expectancy was 47 years.
- There were only 8,000 cars in the country, just 144 miles of paved roads, and the speed limit was 10 mph.
- Women washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
- One in five adults couldn't read or write, only 6 percent had graduated from high school, and 90 percent of all doctors had no college education.
Now for the presumptive headlines of 2031 or beyond:
- Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in Mexifornia, the seventh largest country in the world.
- Couple petitions court to reinstate heterosexual marriage.
- Fidel Castro dies at age 112; Cuban cigars can now be imported legally, but President Chelsea Clinton has banned all smoking.
- Postal Service raises price of first class stamp to $17.89 and reduces mail delivery to Wednesdays only.
- Average weight of American adults drops to 250 pounds.
- Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.
- IRS sets lowest tax rate at 75 percent.
- Florida voters are still having trouble with voting machines.
Maybe the moral of this story is that there's no time like the present. Or, better yet, let's all resolve to be better keepers of those gateways and doors, lest even one of the above futuristic prognostications comes true.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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