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The Groundhog: A Portrait of a Shadowy Creature

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

February second marks the event that has come to be known as Groundhog Day. This is not a holiday. If you ask your boss to give you February second off because you like to celebrate Groundhog Day, chances are your request will be met with:

a) an unpleasant start,

b) a chuckle quickly followed by, “You’re joking, right?”, or

c) acquiescence accompanied with the agreement that you never return to your job.

I wouldn’t advise using up a sick day either. Your boss will figure it out.

I learned what I know about Groundhog Day from the same place everyone else has… the movie. The film Groundhog Day is arguably the best movie based on a quazi-holiday ever to be produced (note: the only other quazi-holiday movie I can recall is Father’s Day which I still cannot bring myself to watch). Groundhog Day taught me about Punxsutawney Phil and his yearly practice of coming out of hibernation to either see or not see his shadow. This act will determine whether we will have to endure six more weeks of winter or not. I think this is a great little tradition. The whole idea is absurd and that’s what I like about it. It makes me happy to be alive when I think about things that may seem silly but are part of our lives.

One gets to wondering, though. What exactly is a groundhog? In the movie, it looked nothing like a hog. Tell me, Groundhogologists of the world, why is this so? Clearly it belongs to the rodent family or at least a family with rodent-like qualities (not unlike The Littles). We wouldn’t call a mouse a “wallpiglet” or a rat a “sewerboar,” would we? Yet, we stick with the groundhog tag. Confusing.

But then one gets to wondering again, what does seeing the shadow mean? If he sees his shadow is it six more weeks of winter or early spring? I thought the latter because of sunshine but then again, isn’t the shadow supposed to scare him back into hibernation? When you think about it, there are a lot of factors that go into this event. The animal first has to wake up from hibernation on the morning of February second – that’s one gem of a biological alarm clock. Then the animal has to come out of the hole. The sun has to be in the correct spot; there should be minimal cloud cover. The wind variance should be… Ugh! You can clearly see how complicated this gets.

I’m rooting for an early spring simply because I’m a warm weather person. Some people like cold weather because it means they can wear sweaters. To me it just means more laundry. Regardless of what anybody wants, ultimately it’s up to the groundhog. Now, I don’t want to put you in a position, Mr. Punxsutawney Phil, but let’s just say that six more weeks of winter won’t make you the most popular guy around. Furthermore, let me add that an early spring will get you a lot of smiles. And to sweeten the deal, an early spring may even earn you a chunk of cheese or a dog biscuit or whatever you deem as a treat. And just so you know, this is merely an incentive, not a bribe. I don't dabble in shadows.