‘attempting to idiot mom nature’

ON GROUNDHOG DAY I’m all the time reminded of one other vacation: the Fourth of July, and particularly my first Independence Day on this piece of land, many years in the past. To mark Groundhog Day, I supply a classic essay on attempting to idiot Mom Nature, and being proved the idiot as an alternative.

It was a special winter then, and in so some ways a complete totally different period, however I feel there’s nonetheless one thing left on this previous piece of writing, anyhow (although not a definitive reply on outdo a woodchuck, sorry; that’s over right here as an alternative.). Get pleasure from.

(from ‘Newsday’ newspaper backyard column, 1989)

TODAY IS THE DAY when ideas formally flip to the potential coming of spring, however on Groundhog Day, my troubled thoughts can’t let go of recollections of Fourth of July. Simply the point out of something groundhog, actually, and people guilt-laden synapses of mine take me proper to that Independence Day not way back and an ill-advised show of underground fireworks.

I attempted to off a groundhog with a smoke bomb.

There, I really feel higher now that I’ve shared it.

At the moment, like many metropolis individuals, I fought the way in which factor are, or no less than objected to it energetically. The primary yr within the nation home, we fought all the things, I recall, not simply the groundhog (or woodchuck, as we knew him to be known as). On the morning after a harsh snowstorm, for instance, we tried to journey again to the town, and on this self-important misadventure, realized a complete new that means for the time period respect.

We fought the deer, who for generations had been coming to eat beneath the apple bushes we now insisted had been ours; the mice, who requested solely a heat place–our bed room wall–to lift their kids. We fought the logic that claims that moss, not flowers, grows on the north aspect of a home, and we even fought one another.

Neither skiers nor kids desirous to trend Frosty on the entrance garden, we moaned about snow just because it was inconvenient, as a result of it slowed us down. Now, a number of winters wiser, we pray for the stuff. It’s nectar, sustenance. We have now seen the devastation a winter windstorm can deal unto the bare backyard, the place no white blanket lies in place to melt the blow.  When it melts round this time of yr, we pray for extra with all our may.

Beneath it, all method of plant and animal life–even the groundhog–may sleep in security till spring.  With out it, they’re like shivering homeless on the town streets.

This February morning, Punxsutawney Phil will increase his sleepy head towards the exit of his artifical bed room burrow in Punxsutawney, Pa., aided by a human handler whose job it’s to make him forecast the season forward. The Blob, which is what a groundhog seems to be like, principally, will both see or not see his shadow, relying on the energy of the late-winter solar. If he does, it’s again to mattress for six extra weeks; sorry, no early spring. The entire thing stems from an historical Scotch couplet: “If the solar is shiny and clear, there’ll be two winters within the yr.”

I, for one, hope winter stays round awhile longer. I hope the remainder of the winter, which hasn’t appeared like a winter to me in any respect but, will carry a number of water to the earth in no matter type, nonetheless inconvenient, nonetheless messy. I hope it snows and sleets and rains and hails everywhere in the nation, each day if crucial, as a result of latest droughts are too clear in my reminiscence for me to hope in any other case.

I bear in mind years when a 3rd of america, or extra, was parched deep into the subsoil, aching for these therapeutic waters. Any gardener who has misplaced even one lettuce seedling to an sudden April warmth wave, or one potted plant when it baked on the radiator, ought to notice what which means: And not using a correct sequence of the passing seasons, with out the “inconvenient” climate like rain and sleet and even snow, there can be no farming and nor gardening, no flowers and no meals.

I do know, it’s been shiny and fairly a number of latest mornings, and also you haven’t needed to combat the chapping winds to get to work or college.  Apart from, you assume, the difficulty’s worse in another area, not mine, and so it’s all proper to really feel secure and completely happy that’s it’s spring two months too quickly.

It’s not proper, and it’s not secure.


My groundhog didn’t die, by the way in which, that unpleasantly memorable Fourth of July, he didn’t even bat a droopy lid on the pair of fools who sealed off the doorways of his burrow with huge stones after dropping a smoke bomb down one finish. He simply sat up excessive on his haunches, as his breed is inclined to do, watching from the distant third opening to his subterranean dwelling. If we had extra expertise, or if we had solely requested one of many many native farmers, we’d have identified the burrow in all probability had greater than two openings.  We might have identified that the groundhog had extra sense than two flatlanders, as we of the town streets are typically not so fondly known as in our unfamiliar rural dwelling.

The remainder of the summer time–or was I being paranoid?–he appeared to commit to watching me backyard, a sort of furry conscience lingering over my shoulder. All can be nicely within the backyard when, all of the sudden, a rustling within the brush on the close by hillside would herald his arrival.

“He’s planning his retaliation,” I might say to myself, questioning what tasty morsel he deliberate to make his crudite for the day. Day after sunny day, he watched me, till I lastly misplaced it, and commenced to shout at him with the conviction in my voice that he ought to pay attention, that he ought to perceive, that he ought to even reply.

I used to be combating once more, a sorry sight, and although he by no means ate a factor from that yr’s summertime backyard, the woodchuck had already gained.


The picture of me and my pet woodchuck (kidding!) comes from an previous “Common Science” journal, after I lastly simply gave up, and invited him in. (Backyard doodle of Margaret’s Grocery store by Andre Jordan,)

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