Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Longest Month

today I'd like to share something I wrote for the newsletter where I work, for my column: Through the Window


It’s February, arguably the longest month of the year.

Oh, I know it’s supposed to be the shortest. But has it ever felt like the shortest? With gloomy weather, the middle of tax season, the second month of a new school semester (in most cases), and all the questions a holiday for people in love can raise, I maintain that this is a very long month.

And somehow, tradition has determined that we begin this month with Groundhog’s Day, a day on which it seems the entire country gathers round the burrow hole of this critter awaiting its prognostication about how long it will be before Spring arrives.

The pressure!

What’s a rodent to think? I’m sure he’d rather be sleeping in his snug bed rather than hauling himself out to listen to human’s clamoring for sage advice on whether or not Spring will arrive early or take another 6 weeks. I know I would. And if he is very rotund, which I’m sure he’d like to be after all that eating he did last fall, I imagine — oh I know — it’s not going to be easy to peer around himself and find that shadow.

Another thing. The question seems to be ‘early’ or ‘another 6 weeks’. Well, I grew up in the Northeast. Six weeks from February 2nd is mid-March. That is an early spring!

So, why do we stand around, watching a hole in the ground for a sleepy furry brown critter to waddle out, turn around a few times, and waddle back to bed?

Well, obviously we like tradition, especially quirky little ones like Groundhog’s Day. They’re fun. And, there’s a certain amount of making use of what could be called Nature’s tool for predicting. I think it’s also a desire to know. What is coming? How do we handle it? What’s happening? We want to be prepared, so we look for answers.

Sometimes that means watching to see the reactions of an animal to its habitat and trying to interpret what they mean. Sometimes it means time spent in school, studying the teachings of others. Sometimes it means looking to another source for knowledge, and celebrating with snow angels.

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