by Brenda Black
The roly poly member of the squirrel family will make his grand appearance come Feb. 2. Top-hat clad men of standing will encircle Punxsutawney Phil, in Punxsutawney, PA, awaiting the rodent's prediction. If the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter’s midpoint, he will become afraid and return to his burrow for the next six weeks until winter is over. If the groundhog does not see his shadow on the other hand, spring is said to be near.
That's all find and dandy and gives folks a fun reprieve from the mid-seasonal slump between Christmas getting and Valentine giving. I agree festivities centered on the cuteness of a groundhog seem quaint. They are snuggly in appearance with a broad head, tiny ears and a plump body plopped on short legs that makes waddling their favored gait. But to give this rotund critter such a place of honor is a bit baffling to me. For all that is glorified in a woodchuck is looked down upon in the rest of society.
He gets all kinds of positive attention for his sturdy silhouette while we humans constantly fight the battle of the bulge. I've seen my shadow and sometimes I wonder if someone isn't walking next to me! And no one has patted me on the back or tossed me a cracker for being not-so-slender. One little furry marmot kept in captivity is said to have blossomed to an enormous 37 pounds. That's nearly six times the normal size! Imagine the outcry of a human weighing in at at one thousand!
To his dubious credit, Mr. Groundhog also sleeps a good portion of the year. During the winter, the round, brown burrower drifts into a deep three-month slumber, surviving off its summer fat stores. His heart rate and breathing slow to an unbelievable pace. Once every four or five minutes, the heart will beat and about every six minutes, Chubs will take in a deep breath. Then his body temperature plummets to 40 degrees. I feel guilty if I sleep in an extra hour in a week! And I sure can't imagine being so unavailable for such an extended hiatus. This woodchuck truly knows how to check out.
When he's not donning a tuxedo or propped on top of a sun dial, a groundhog not hibernating fills his days with destruction. Many a farmer has seen the damage around barn foundations where this cuddly little terror has practiced demolition. Enthusiastically he digs his den for dining and sleeping without thought for the human's property. A person, on the other hand, acting so carelessly would face a lawsuit from the angry landowner, not be touted as a rock star every February second.
Wouldn't life be grand if we could just eat and sleep and tear up the turf with our claws and teeth? Some days I think that might not be so bad. But I'm not a large rat. I'm human. And God expects a little bit more from those He created in His image. So this Feb. 2, no matter the shadowy outcome, we need to seize the moment. Six more weeks of winter not wasted or spring around the corner awaiting great things. The bottom line is that whether the weather is fierce or mild, we still need to take one day at a time and live it to the fullest rather than live it like a groundhog.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)