climate

Thankful for Spring

Early April can be a funny old time of year.

First it's a bit warm, then we're plunged into winter conditions again. Light breezes give way to gales. One day the sun is bright, the next the sky is laden with clouds and those 'spring showers' feel a bit more like winter downpours.

It's like the weather can't make up it's mind what to do.

The daffodils and primroses are around and then disappear. The trees have buds but are not yet green. 

It's like nature is about to surprise us, but we just need to wait a little while longer.

But yet in the midst of all the confusion, there's hope on the horizon.

Spring IS a lovely, optimistic season and I for one, am ready for spring this year and hopeful for a new beginning ... 

Thankful for spring
 

 


That February Feeling

It's that time of year when life can be a little overwhelming. At least that's my experience.

January is over but Spring is not yet with us. We are still often being battered by the winter weather, wet and windy, cold and dull. Life can feel a bit dark in the first couple of weeks of February. Winter can seem never-ending.

Of course, we know it WILL  come to an end ... after all, this is not Narnia during the reign of the White Witch when it was, in the words of their creator C.S.Lewis“Always winter but never Christmas.”

But sometimes it does feel endless.

Although here in Jersey in the Channel Islands we've had the occasional bright winter's day in recent weeks, January was the wettest on record, with only a couple of days of the month rain-free, and right now we're in another dull and cold snap. 

Add to that the fact that we've had nearly a year of pandemic restrictions, working from home and not much getting out, well it's very easy to start to feel sorry for oneself.

But on a day like today I need to remind myself that, even though life is getting me down, actually I have so much to be thankful for.

So many people during this coronavirus pandemic have lost their lives, or loved ones. Many have lost their jobs and life is very insecure. Although the past year for me has not been a bed of roses, I have certainly not had a terribly negative experience. I'm sure I'll talk more about this again from time to time.

But I do need to keep on top of the tendency towards negativity.

A few years back, I realised that sometimes we forget to be grateful for the things we have in our lives. We chase dreams and perhaps things out of reach, rather than just being satisfied with and thankful for what we have - right now!

It was then I created a Facebook page called 'Don't Forget to Say Thanks' . It's not the most followed page in the world but every now and then, when I need to remind myself of the need to feel gratitude, I post a little thought. It's a work in progress. Aren't we all?

So, today, when I am feeling a little worse for wear and mournful of the season, I turn to that inspiration ... and share one encouraging thought with you!

Thanks Feb 9

 


Groundhog Day

Do you have a favourite film? 

Or maybe you have a few movies that would be in your Top Ten? If you were making a list.

Are you an action movie fan, or a sci fi fanatic, or perhaps like me you prefer RomComs, a little light  romance and comedy? 

I have to admit, there are some movies that I can watch over and over and over and over and over... and not get bored. And one of those is linked to today.

February 2nd in North America - the USA and Canada - is Groundhog Day and I love the Bill Murray movie of the same name. More of that in a moment.

GroundhogBut first ... what IS a 'groundhog'

Well, it's a kind of rodent, and apparently belongs to the marmot or ground squirrel family. It's found in the USA, Canada and into Alaska. Among other characteristics, they have big teeth and they live in burrows. When fully grown a groundhog can be as long as 27inches (about 69cm) and can weigh as much as 14pounds (over 6kg). I've been doing my research and all I can say is, that groundhog is not a small squirrel!

One of the important things to know about the groundhog is that are hibernators. They often dig a separate 'winter burrow', which they build below the frost line, which means even when it's frozen up top, the animals can safely sleep away the winter months without fear of freezing to death. Usually, groundhogs hibernate from October to March or April, or thereabouts. 

And that's relevant to the tradition of Groundhog Day (the actual day) which apparently is an old superstition from the Pennsylvania Dutch community in America, which says that if a groundhog emerges early from it's burrow - on February 2 - then it can tell us if Spring is on its way.

So the legend goes, if the groundhog sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will quickly nip back into its burrow, and winter will go on for six more weeks. If, however, the animal does NOT see its shadow because it's too cloudy, Spring will arrive early!

All this predicting the weather is part of ancient 'weather lore' which is found in lots of cultures, including German speaking areas (and the Pennsylvania Dutch people come from Germanic-speaking areas of Europe) where the animal predicting the weather is usually a badger, but sometimes a bear or a fox.

And these weather lore predictions are also linked to the Christian festival of Candlemas, which we also celebrate today. Tradition has it that if the weather is clear on Candlemas, we're in for a long winter!

Now of course there's no scientific evidence for such weather predictions, but it's fun isn't it? 

In North America, February 2nd has taken on a special significance. Groundhog Day ceremonies happen on this day across the USA and Canada, but it's in a place called Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, that the most popular ceremony occurs, where the focus is a groundhog called 'Punxsutawney Phil'.

And that's the link to the 1993 movie that I mentioned at the start.

'Groundhog Day' starring Bill Murray and Andy MacDowell is largely located in Punxsutawney around the iconic ceremony and the film has not only helped to immortalise the seasonal celebration, but the concept of it has also added a new phrase to our dictionary.

If you haven't ever seen the movie then sorry for the spoiler. Bill Murray plays a cynical (and rather obnoxious) TV weatherman called Phil who is sent to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony, and then finds himself in a time loop through which he is forced to re-live February 2nd ... Groundhog Day ... over and over and over, until he becomes a better person. He learns to live each moment at a time, rather than always chasing ambition and celebrity.

As a result of the movie which was conceived, co-written and directed by Harold Ramis,  we now use the phrase 'Groundhog Day' for any situation which is monotonous, repetitive and even unpleasant and boring.

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, lots of us feel like we've been living Groundhog Day - don't we?

Working from home, staying in and not being able to go out and mingle with others, not being able to see family members - much of our time during 2020 and into 2021 has felt so repetitive and monotonous. I think 'Groundhog Day' is a great way of describing my pandemic experience.

But just as Weatherman Phil in the movie came out of his Groundhog Day a better person, so I believe we can emerge from the COVID19 experience improved and finer examples of humanity.

Early on in the pandemic, especially, we saw so many acts of kindness and caring. The Thursday 8pm 'Clap for Carers' which some are still doing as they Clap for their Heroes. People checking on their neighbours, delivering food and medicines, thinking of others. 

And although Covid fatigue might have stolen a little of that from us as the months have progressed, I believe this time has shown us what a kinder and more compassionate world can look like. 

I'd like to believe that a memory of that kindness might be part of the legacy of our Pandemic Groundhog Day, along with the realisation that life is short and that, no matter how much status and money and position and ambition we chase, perhaps we just need to take more time to breathe, to enjoy our environment and the beauty of the world around us, to appreciate our loved ones more, and maybe even take pleasure in the simple things - like a walk on a Spring morning - no matter when that might be.