Six Less Weeks of Winter

4 02 2007

By Jill Ettinger

Growing up in Pittsburgh – just an hour drive from Punxsutawney – Groundhog Day always enjoyed more media attention than most any other newsworthy story of the day. Like the movie starring Bill Murray, local news channels foam at the mouth for the opportunity to do a fun feature instead of the boring morning traffic report. And I’m sure most of us will admit, we look forward to this peculiar celebration, eager to hear the prediction of an animal we probably know nothing else about. Interestingly enough, the meaning of this superstition has its roots in German folklore. Thought I know little about my German ancestors, this type of belief fits the bill of the strange stories my grandfather would often tell. The legend goes: any hibernating creature that sees its shadow predicts six more weeks of winter, and if they do not, an early spring awaits. Since 1886, there have only been 15 calls to an early spring, and Friday’s news eludes to quick relief from the winter chill, perhaps confirming the ominous prediction on our climate’s inevitable shift.

Being the optimist, I can’t help but hold out for the happy ending. Perhaps too many fairy tales have spoiled me – Han, Luke and Leia’s victory over the dark side, offers me a lasting hope that the underdog has an unbreakable will, a tool no amount of corrupt power or greed is capable of defeating.

Speaking with some friends Thursday night, one made an observation how it is so much easier and rewarding to work within a community that, although only coming together only once a year, extends their heart-centered commitment year round. Compassion and respect for each other, as well as those parts of our living world that one lifetime may not be enough to ensure a visit, nonetheless commands a graceful regard in our every action.

Thinking forward to the generations that will inherit many more of these premature springs, perhaps nothing more important than ensuring they have some shade, shelter and food to help sustain their journey. The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation taking big heart warming steps in this direction, an especially profound mission this winter as we prepare ourselves for its early thaw.

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