BY LES McCARTHY
February 24, 2016
Lizards do it. Squirrels do it. Even baby lemurs do it. So, I am, too…taking a flying leap, that is.
It’s Leap Year and February 29th is coming around…so, I’ll be leaping. I’m leaping at the opportunity for change and a new chapter in my life. I don’t know exactly what it will be, but every four years I challenge myself to take something new on—and the time is nigh.
Luckily for me, this extra day gives me time to get my head around this next unknown (yet) adventure and prepare myself to be open to whatever “it” may be. It’ll dawn on me soon enough, but I need that time. Or maybe I’ll just mosey along as I walk the dog, adding some little leaps to my steps while I ponder all that is possible. This time only comes around once every four years—why not make the most of it?
Leap Day…an extra 24 hours…an extra day! However, technically, it’s not really an extra day as much as one we stick into this month to catch our calendars up with the rotation around the sun. It actually takes 365 ¼ days each year to accomplish that feat. What happens to those extra six hours that we don’t count? We put them together every four years to make up an extra day… welcome Leap Day!
It is said that the Egyptians probably were the first ones to incorporate a Leap Year Day but Caesar was given the credit when it was added to the calendar, way back, in 46 B.C. And a little known fact—this added day doesn’t totally correct the offset of the rotation/calendar year as it’s off by about 11 minutes. So, Pope Gregory XIII came to the rescue of time and decreed that Leap Year would be skipped three times every 400 years. I don’t know when we’ll skip the next one…guess we’ll leap over it.
And though Leap Year Day was established to keep our calendar aligned with nature, folklore states that babies born on February 29th (called leaplings or leapers) are unruly and difficult to discipline. Probably because they only get a real birthday once every four years! I’d be unruly, too! And, if you are a leapling, you are one of roughly 200,000 in the United States and one of the five million worldwide. Your chance of being born on this day is 1 in 1500 and, this year, over 10,000 leapers will join us in the United States. Happy Birthday to you, little leaplings!
Thanks to early feminist, St. Bridget, some 400 years ago in Ireland, love is now associated with Leap Day, as well. At the time women were not allowed to propose marriage to their sweethearts. She complained to St. Patrick about this disparity and he allowed the reversal of proposals—but only on one day. And yep, you guessed it…Leap Day was then noted as a day of opportunity for the women who then were called “old maids” and for love.
In the 1879 opera “The Pirates of Penzance,” the character Frederic is apprenticed with a band of pirates until his 21st birthday. When that day arrives he goes ashore, falls in love and plans to marry. UNTIL … dun-da-dun-dun… the pirates realize that Frederic was born a leaper and (due to the Leap Year cycle), wouldn’t finish his duties on ship until 1940, when he would be well into his 80s. Poor Frederic had to leave his love and go back to sea. Argh!
A few years back (four years ago, actually) my son and his girlfriend happened to be at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC on Leap Day so they, oddly enough, were surrounded by actual leapers—of a different variety.
You’ve got a few days to think about this—so make a plan and whatever you do on this Leap Year Day—leap into it. Do something you’ve never done before—take a leap at something new, something fun; open yourself to a new chapter. Enjoy these extra 24 hours and, well—I say this with only good will in my heart—go take a flying leap!
Les McCarthy is an author, entrepreneur and IPPY bronze medalist for her yearly “Healthy Living ~ Healthy Life: 365 Days of Nutrition & Health for the Family” calendars. She’s been nearly 20 months on the island and in the NW and loves every gorgeous bit of it (especially the fog). She joyfully tends to her dwindling geriatric fur factory and looks forward to the return of the slugs and snails (and sunshine)! (photos courtesy of Les McCarthy.)
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