Off the Beaten Path

Pam Pollock
March 2016

Phil Got It Wrong!

Little groundhog down below,
Underneath the wintry snow.
Come on out and tell us true...
Is Spring coming? Is Winter through?

Being from Western Pennsylvania, I put a lot of stock in what Punxsutawney Phil has to say every year on February 2nd. Yes, he is a furry little varmint, but he’s been predicting when Spring will arrive since 1887 when he emerges from his burrow in Gobbler’s Knob.

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a HYPERLINK "" Celtic tradition that says that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the Pagan holiday of HYPERLINK "" Imbolc, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early. This year Phil did not see his shadow and people were so excited and grabbing their shorts and flip flops and doing the Happy Dance in the streets.

I did not participate in the festivities because I conducted my own Groundhog shadow experiment with my two favorite little Groundhogs and they clearly saw their shadows. (Ok, so maybe Grandma’s camera flash created that shadow.) Everyone scoffed at me when I released my prediction but I did not care. I left my winter coat hanging in the closet and my boots by the front door.

I admit it; this has been a very weird winter! It was 65º on Christmas Eve! We never really received any snow until January and that blizzard that hit the Eastern part of the state and even Pittsburgh, only 40 miles to our South, never touched us.

Everyone was rounding up their kayaks and flower seeds and I just sat back and waited. I did not have to wait long because BAM! Old Man Winter rolled back into town a week and a half ago. The wind howled, the snow enveloped the ground and the temperature plummeted to –9º. And I sat back with a little smile on my face and said nothing. Ok, I lied. I gleefully ran around yelling, “I told you so. I told you so!” And then I grabbed my camera and rushed out to take photos of the glory of a pristine snowfall.

Sure, it warmed up again this past weekend and was in the 60ºs again. But it’s currently 26º and while there is not much snow on the ground, it’s coming again, I tell ya. After all, my little groundhogs said there would be 6 more weeks of winter.