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The cat Marvis and I have a daily routine. He climbs on top of no less than four pillows on a chair pulled up snugly against my desk and keyboard. I turn on the computer and settle into my chair. We read the news, study social media, check emails, and write. But I have to admit that all of that gets harder on those days when the morning sun refuses to shine through the window upon us.

I think it not an exaggeration when I say we haven’t seen the sun in weeks. I can handle the snow and the cold of January just fine. That’s what January is supposed to be about. But when we have to go weeks without sunshine, both of us get a little surly. Fortunately, I have one of those big lamps that are designed to imitate the sun. I click that on and the artificial light shines on my face and Marvis adjusts his position to catch a few rays too. After about 15 minutes of that, we click it off according to the instructions that came with the unit.

This morning, both Marvis and I were surprised to see the sun – the real sun. It came beating through the window on both of us for about an hour. Now it has become elusive again.

But tomorrow is Groundhog Day. That, of course, is when the groundhog supposedly comes out of his burrow and if he sees his shadow he skedaddles back underground, indicating another six weeks of winter. That’s the adage. I’ve always found it interesting because the proverb is silent on what happens if the groundhog does not see his shadow. My take on it is that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog does not see his shadow, there will still be six more weeks of winter. Either way, that takes us up to just a few days short of the vernal equinox or the first day of spring on our calendars.

We can’t blame the poor groundhog if the snow and ice don’t melt or the temperatures don’t hover in the 60s.

Local weather prognosticators are telling us that, indeed, the groundhog will see his shadow tomorrow. So be it. I just hope the sun remains out all day rather than just the hour or so that the groundhog is put on public display in cities across America.

The groundhog is also known as a woodchuck, of course. There is a small meadow just a block or so from our house where we see a woodchuck sunbathing quite often during the summer. We figure his burrow is somewhere in the hill adjoining the nearby creek because he will, occasionally, find his way out on the warmer winter days.

A few years ago, we had our own woodchuck who took up occupancy in our backyard. He burrowed underneath the tool shed. From diagrams I’ve seen, the groundhog has quite the house plan with upper and lower floors and a front and back entrance. That little friend would come out and sun himself on the big rock close to the back of the shed and near one of his entrances. They can be good-sized animals and this guy seemed like a small bear. He was shy as it seems most groundhogs are.

A woodchuck relaxing on a rock [Internet image]

We didn’t have a problem with our woodchuck. We rather enjoyed him. Farmers aren’t crazy about them because they like to eat fresh sprouts. For that matter, small gardeners wouldn’t be happy to have them around either. But the bigger problem for us was when the critter abandoned his burrow in the spring and summer and failed to close the place. The sumptuous underground surroundings were quite attractive to skunks, raccoons, and other varmints we would just as soon see find other locations to make their homes.

It came to this: we had no choice but to participate in a woodchuck relocation program. We didn’t want to do it. But when he kept coming back year after year to reopen his neatly dug burrow, there were few options for us. We didn’t want the critter exterminated.

So we hired a trapper who set out enticing goodies (apples, as I recall). It didn’t take long before we found our furry friend in the trap and called to have him carted off. He was taken miles and miles from our home so that the chances of him finding his way back to us were slim. We snickered just a little at the thought of him burrowing under a fancy estate on the far west side of the city. I suspect, however, he was released in a conservation area somewhere in the country. He was probably happier there in more comfortable surroundings.

Then the trapper came back and dug all around the shed, planting mesh screens along the side and some distance out to prevent further digging and access. It worked. We haven’t had a varmint problem since. Well, except for those nasty little chipmunks with whom we just have to deal.

But I’ve missed our woodchuck so I’m glad to see a relative of his in the meadow down the street.

If truth were told, I’m guessing the groundhog would just as soon see spring come a little earlier himself. The speedier he can get out and move around, the swifter he can find a female burrow and enjoy a little tête-à-tête in the quiet of the creek bank.

A woodchuck or groundhog, similar to those in our neighborhood [Internet photo]

There are times of the year, like winter, when I would prefer to make my own and correct prognostications as to when it will be over. But there are also seasons of life where it might be handy to possess the apparent reliability of the groundhog when it comes to predicting when this hurdle or that obstacle will be removed from my life. From painful muscle tears to grieving the loss of one we love, we all would prefer that it just be over, that the hurt would just go away.

In time, those wounds don’t hurt quite so much but many of them never go away completely.

I’ve come to accept that each bombshell that explodes in my life will leave a mark here and a scar there. But I’ve survived all of them so far. I’ve learned from most of them and I’m still learning. A lot of those couldn’t be avoided so it’s been a matter of learning to lean on God, to allow my faith to grow, understanding that sometimes God has something similar in mind to a woodchuck relocation program, sending me in new directions sometimes physically but more often mentally and emotionally. And sometimes I just have to put up with a varmint here or there.

Well, look at that. The sun must be out. There are long shadows now being cast in the snow. The sky is a beautiful blue, the clouds are changing from an unremitting gray to a wispier white. And now the sun is gone again.

On the day before Groundhog Day, I’m prognosticating that there will be six more weeks of winter, sunshine or not. But I’ll be praying for the sunshine even if we get stuck with the bitter air.

And I’m always praying that God’s will be done.


Jesus answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. – Matthew 16:32-33


 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:6

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