Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter on the Lane

Winter in Connecticut actually started early this year with the first flurries appearing back in October.  If you don't live in New England, then you've probably seen news reports of record snowfall throughout the northeast.  Our little town has been no exception.  We've been hit hard and steady all winter so far.  There have been blizzard conditions, ice storms, high winds and problems with ice damning on rooftops.  We have giant icicles that dangle precariously from our roof line when temperatures rise above freezing.  Once the temperature drops, the melting snow freezes into icicles up to six feet long.  It's truly amazing.  Especially for someone who grew up on the west coast.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a seasoned east coaster, having lived in Connecticut before, and also stints in the Adirondacks of New York and also a bit of time in Wisconsin.  I know how to work a shovel and snow blower, believe me.  I'm more spoiled these days and have a plow guy who keeps my lane and driveway clear and sanded if necessary.  He's so overworked this year, that his equipment has needed repair and he sometimes doesn't show up until the end of the day due to the shear volume of snow.  All that said, today, in the middle of an ice storm and two consecutive snow days (which means no school to us locals) I -- along with the rest of the world -- received some good news.  The groundhog did not see his shadow today.  This means, of course, if you believe in such things, that spring will be coming early this year.  Hallelujah.  I love winter, and snow, and all the beauty it brings, the fresh air and hot chocolate and a crackling fire in the fireplace -- but holy mother of nature, an early spring sounds like a great idea to me.  Like most people, I read my horoscope with a slight smirk on my face, and believe predictions and star readings are just entertainment for the masses, not something to live by.  The way the astrological forecaster words her (have you ever noticed it's always women who write horoscopes?) reports for each sign could be true for anybody in any situation.  'You will feel emotional toward a loved one.'  'Opportunities at work will be available.' Horoscopes never say things like, 'You will catch your spouse cheating.'  'Your boss will promote the dingaling who sits in the next cubicle, over you, because they've been having an affair.'  If only -- that might actually be helpful.  But who could predict such things?  The same goes for the groundhog.  We all know it's mostly for fun and that it's the guys in the funny top hats who make the prediction.  After all, since February 2, 1886, Punxsutawney Phil has been emerging in Pennsylvania and predicting when winter will end with 40% accuracy.  Give or take.  It's an old German tradition brought to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who by the way, are not Dutch, they are German.  There are some different ideas as to why we call these settlers Dutch when they are German.  One theory is that because they traveled down the Rhine River to Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and sailed on ships registered to Dutch harbors, the English speakers confused them for Dutch.  Another theory is that the word for 'German' in German is Deutsch, and English speakers butchered the pronunciation over time (that sounds more like it).  At any rate, the Palatine Germans (from the Rhine region) speak Palatinate German and are responsible for the tradition of Groundhog Day in America.  When Phil emerges on February 2nd each year, if it's cloudy and he sees no shadow, then it's an early spring...if it's sunny and he sees his shadow, then it's six more weeks of winter.  Today it was cloudy.  Hurrah.  I'm going along with the tradition and count on an early spring.  But, I have to say, after seeing the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray in 1993, I hope it doesn't just all turn into a big nightmare.  That was one of the most frustrating movies I've ever seen.  I loved the setting (it was not shot in Punxsutawney, PA, like you'd think, but instead, Woodstock, Illinois, due to nicer hotels for the crew and because it was film industry friendly) but every time Bill Murray set his clock and fell asleep, and awoke to relive the same exact day over again, I wanted to get up and leave the theatre.  People have tried to explain the deep meaning behind the movie to me, and either I'm stupid or not very deep, but I just don't get it.  So therefore, I'll probably never go to the town of Punxsutawney and actually participate in the Groundhog Day events, but this year, just for kicks, I'm going to believe in the groundhog, with complete conviction.  I'm going to pray that he's correct and I'm going to get behind the little furry guy.  Spring.  Spring.  Spring.  I will repeat this over and over until it comes true.  For I have no other option -- as I sit buried in 72 inches of snow, with icicles hanging outside my window, and more snow on the way this weekend -- than to hope, and hope is the key word here, people, that the groundhog is right, and an early spring is totally, for sure, going to happen (I threw some California jive in there for good luck).  By the way, I wrote this whole blog with my fingers and legs crossed, if you believe in that sort of thing.  Please, for the love of humanity and all that is good, pray for an early spring and keep the faith.  Happy Groundhog Day.  ~ Caron