Well, it seems that Punxsutawney Phil, the official representative of the rodent family Sciurdae belonging to the group of large ground squirrels otherwise known as Groundhogs, has spoken. Or not spoken. Or has had a gentleman with an Amish-styled beard, bifocals, tuxedo and black stove pipe hat speak for him, once again.
Phil, that “Seer or seers, the prognosticator of prognosticators” according to his black-clad spokesman, emerged from his cozy den somewhere in Southeastern Pennsylvania early this morning, and, “After glancing an appreciate glance to his faithful followers in attendance, proclaimed, ‘Many shadows do I see, six more weeks of winter it must be!”. With all due respect to Phil, I prefer being buried in snow and huddled against icy cold in February and have found this winter season to be a balmy bust. Note: this article was originally written in 2012, a period of non-Winter for much of Midwest America. Currently, we are frozen over with a half- foot of fresh snow and holding strong at fourteen degrees.
As to Groundhogs, or their official Day rather, its cultural and spiritual significance is somewhat limited. The experiences of egocentric weatherman Phil Connors, however, played by Bill Murray in the 1993 film of the same name, does offer some insight. In the film, reliving February 2nd over and over again at first drives Phil to hedonism; with no fear of log-term consequences, he seduces women, steals money, drives recklessly and is eventually thrown in jail (Groundhog Day has entered common use in English as a reference to an unfavorable situation that seems to repeat itself). After realizing that even suicide can’t save him from the ongoing time loop, Phil has a change of heart and leverages his strange time situation to better himself to learn, among other things, how to play the piano, sculpt ice and speak French.
Groundhog Day according to an online resource “is now considered a tale of self-improvement which emphasizes the need to look inside and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes from turning inward and concerning oneself with others rather than concentrating solely on one’s own wants and desires. According to my online source, the phrase also ‘has become a shorthand illustration for the concept of spiritual trasncendence (!)’ As such, the film has become a favorite of Buddhists because they see its themes of selflessness and rebirth as a reflection of their own spiritual messages. It has also, in the Catholic tradition, been seen as a representation of Purgatory, even dubbed by some religious leaders as the ‘most spiritual film of our time.'” Oy, who knew?
A few things thing I do know, and these from personal experience: youth’s biggest folly is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting some different result. When I consider some of the old, worn-out, rutted roads I've walked, hanging out with the same people in the places expecting some different vibe, I’m thinking I can learn a thing or two from Punxsutawney Phil, the man-varmint who had a change of heart, and maybe choose a similar upward road for my life and future. Also knowing that groundhogs are Woodchucks, I adore Woodchucks, understanding that spiritually they are symbols of hard work, the Woodchuck Nation always being ready to work hard, doing all they would chuck if they could chuck, in order to reach their goals and be well-rewarded for their earthy efforts.