I wake up to stare at my three calendars and realize that it’s February 29th. Leap Day. The first time I realized what a leap year meant, I was living in a different country, struggling to get my younger mind around the concept of a presidential election—because have you ever noticed that every leap year, it’s also the US presidential election and summer Olympics? I don’t know, I just like facts like that. Patterns. I like patterns.
The sun makes patterns on my quilt as I roll out of bed and set out to enjoy this day that I won’t see again for four more years. Google makes it all the brighter with its little animation, and I think like I always do about the people who have a birthday today. When do you celebrate in the in-between years—February 28th or March 1st? I don’t know if I would be depressed or ecstatic to have a leap day birthday.
It’s uncommonly warm for the last day of winter (in my un-scientific calculations), so I grab David Copperfield and let Dickens entertain me in the blustery sunshine on the back porch. But there’s something about the wind that distracts me, and I find myself staring out into the distance and thinking about this leap year.
I like palindromes—a man a plan a canal panama. I like times like 11:11 and dates like 3/14/15. I like names where the first letter of the first name and the last letter of the last name are the same. It’s even better when it’s an exotic letter, like v. I like books like David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (D.C. by C.D.). I like how you can add the outside numbers of the the products of 11 in the hundreds and get the middle number, like 121. I like how when you multiply a number by zero, it equals nothing. Poof—it’s gone. No matter how big the first number is, zero can make it disappear. A little bit of magic.
That’s what leap days feel like to me: magic. I know there’s a scientific reason behind it, and that it’s not that glamorous, really, but just because there’s an explanation for something doesn’t mean I can’t marvel at it all the same. Who says math is really that different from magic? Numbers, words, algebra, grammar—sometimes they can explode into something as wizardly and wonderful as Gandalf’s fireworks.
The sun beams down on the thawing world, and the wind whips my hair into my eyes—forget about reading—and I think that I am so grateful to live in a world where every four years, you get a new day.
I am so grateful to live in a world where we can add and lose hours and not every place does it, so some places have an hour when others don’t, and it’s mind-boggling but there’s a reason, and it’s math and it’s magic.
I am so grateful to live in a world where watches can read 12:21 and calendars can list 9/10/11. I am so grateful to live in a world where sentences like “Poor Dan is in a droop” exist (although my dad argues that that doesn’t count, since “droop” isn’t technically a word). I am so grateful to live in a world where all these silly little things like tricks and puzzles and puns can brighten our days.
‘Cause, see, it didn’t have to be this way. Have you ever marveled that the sky is blue, not gray? Have you ever given thanks for cool-looking graphs (have you ever even thought a graph looked cool? Just wait till trig.)? Have you ever wondered at the wizardry of words?
Sometimes I take them for granted, and then I remember that it’s really a gift to live in a world with all these little miracles that maybe only I think about but that brighten up our mundanity.
Leap days, they remind me of the magic of life.