Origins of the Word “March”
The name of the month of March has different derivations. In English, “March” derives from the Latin month’s name “Martius” which came from the name of the god of war, Mars. The god of war was named after the planet Mars because it marked the spring season when the Romans began their season of warfare. Interestingly, “march” also derives from an ancient word, “mearc,” which means border or frontier—a meaning which subsequently gave rise to the meaning of the verb “to mark.” The two derivations may be related because wars usually occur across borderlands.
Markings of March
Various celebrations from different traditions mark the month of March. This year in the European-American tradition, Mardi Gras, celebrated with feasting and drinking fell on the first day of March. The day after Mardi Gras marks the first day of Lent in the Catholic tradition which requires believers to fast until Easter. I have friends who have a home in New Orleans and spend the spring in Louisiana. I’ve been able to enjoy the New Orleans version of Mardi Gras from the photos they send displaying the costumes, parades, and special dishes.
On the Roman calendar, the word “ides” simply indicated the middle of the month. Nevertheless, to this day, “Beware the ides of March” remains a somber warning phrase in the European-American tradition because of a line in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar when the soothsayer warns the emperor not to go to the forum that day. In real life, Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March in 44 BC.
March 17th which marks the feast of Saint Patrick in Ireland, has become a secular holiday celebrated not only in Ireland but across the United States with parades, beer, and Irish dishes. True to my own Irish roots, I always serve a dinner accompanied by Irish soda bread and Guinness. In Illinois, Chicago dyes the Chicago River green to celebrate the holiday. For years, an Irish pub in Colorado hosted the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was one block long.
Astronomically, the spring equinox, or the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, occurs in March and marks the day when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west. In the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox brings earlier sunrises and later sunsets. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere where my daughter lives and where it is now cyclone season.
March in Fiction
Because my 2022 blogs are devoted to the months of the year, I have been searching for examples of how authors approach the months. Do they just name the month, use the names of the months to delineate a time sequence, or is the month used to set a tone or a contrast?
Herman Melville, in The Piazza Tales, uses the month of March in an intriguing way to contrast the behaviors and lives of two men. The main character has bought a farmhouse in the country and after considering each direction, decides to build his piazza on the north side. His neighbor, Dives, ridicules him because Dives’ piazza faces the warm sun of the south. Dives chuckles and hopes that the new owner of the farm has warm mittens. Once the North-facing piazza is installed, the new farm owner is quite content to spend the warm days on it during the summer as he watches Dives suffer during hot days on his full sun piazza: “But March don’t [sic] last forever; patience, and August comes. And then, in the cool elysium [sic] of my northern bower, I, Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, cast down the hill a pitying glance on poor old Dives, tormented in the purgatory of his piazza to the south.”
Charles Dickens, in Barnaby Rudge, uses the month of March to set a bleak scene in a tavern. Again, this author equates the dour weather with the cold personality of the innkeeper who is willing to send his customers out into the pounding rain:
“The evening with which we have to do, was neither a summer nor an autumn one, but the twilight of a day in March, when the wind howled dismally among the bare branches of the trees, and rumbling in the wide chimneys and driving the rain against the windows of the Maypole Inn, gave such of its frequenters as chanced to be there at the moment an undeniable reason for prolonging their stay, and caused the landlord to prophesy that the night would certainly clear at eleven o’clock precisely,—which by a remarkable coincidence was the hour at which he always closed his house.”
March in My Fiction
One of my novels takes place during the era of Watergate. While the setting is not on the East coast, it would be appropriate to work news of Watergate into the characters’ perception of the government’s affairs.
My second novel takes place during the Spanish flu epidemic, first identified in the USA in March of 1918. While the epidemic is not the focus of the novel, it appears in the storyline.
My third novel takes place during the depression. Interestingly, March 5, 1933, was the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed a four-day “Bank Holiday.” His goal was to prevent public panic and the withdrawal of so much money that the entire banking system would collapse.
My Writing Goals for 2022
Publish my second book of poetry:
This month I reworked some of the poems.
Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:
I worked on sections of this novel.
Continue to work on my other novels:
I worked on sections of one.
Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:
Boulder Writers Alliance: As president, I presided over my first Steering Committee meeting, presented an evening workshop on to topic of Goal Setting for Creative Work and Success, laid out four poetry workshops, and made the slides for my upcoming BWA workshop on Professional Development for Writers.
Denver Women’s Press Club: I advertised the DWPC’s Unknown Writers Contest to BWA.
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read about the conference and speakers planned for fall 2022.
Women Writing the West: I followed a discussion on the email list about “sensitivity” feedback during the editing process.
Crestone Poetry Festival: Over the last weekend of February, I zoomed into the Crestone Poetry Festival which was presented virtually again this year. Art Goodtimes, the Western Slope Poet Laureate (2011–2013), is the organizer along with the Crestone team. I particularly liked the Talking Gourds session in which poets read one of their own poems or a poem by another poet. I read one of mine aloud for the first time. More than 90 poets logged on over the two-day sessions, read their poems, listened to others read, and commented in the chat room. The sessions were refreshing and inspiring.
Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:
Today is March 7, 2022, I am posting my third blog of 2022. Studying the names of the months, their derivations, and meanings is expanding my understanding of history while providing me with ideas for my writing. What I am learning or perhaps re-learning studying the months, is how changeable human categorizations are and how much they vary depending on the language, culture, and religion of groups over time.
March 7th in history: Amanda Gorman, poet and author of The Hill We Climb, Call Us What We Carry, and Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, was born on March 7th.