Punxsutawney Phil is Christian, Actually
Thursday is Groundhog Day. I’m not going to make any predictions, since I live in southern California, where six more weeks of winter just means they have to turn on the Chateau Marmont patio heat lamps.
This month also marks 30 years of Groundhog Day, the rare cinematic classic not spoiled by pointless sequels, reboots, or Broadway musical adaptations. Much has been written about the surprising philosophical resonance of the hero’s dilemma, inexplicably condemned to repeat the same 24 hour period over and over. Buddhists have seen it as a depiction of the cycle of death and rebirth known as samsara. Others have interpreted it through the lens of psychoanalysis or self-help.
The theory I prefer is that Murray’s bitter weatherman is in purgatory. This seems a fitting tribute to the holiday’s origins in the Christian feast of Candlemas. So I suppose a good way to celebrate Groundhog Day would be to pray for those souls undergoing purification in preparation for their final reward.
I first saw Groundhog Day in a dismal, Stalinist “House of Culture” in the depressed northern Czech industrial town of Ústí nad Labem. Fresh out of college, I had recently begun a job teaching English at a natural gas distribution company there, and was beginning to doubt the wisdom of my decision. Bill Murray was a great comfort to me that afternoon, and to this day that movie takes me back to the terrifying yet exhilarating uncertainty of my early 20s. Some springtimes will never return.
Groundhog Day means another holiday (also Christian in origin) is not far behind. Proper gift giving is crucial, either to secure a new Valentine or placate a current one. But what to get her? Some of that goop she rubs on her face? A new pair of those going-to-the-grocery-store pants? A sparkly rock? Align can help you decide with its excellent Non-Woke Gift Guide.
I don’t care what Klaus Schwab says — I would never eat a dog. A groundhog’s a different matter, however. Consider this rave review: “Groundhogs are not only edible, they’re tender and delicious if properly cleaned and prepared. They live on a completely vegetarian diet and carry no life-threatening diseases for humans. Groundhogs are similar to rabbits in taste, and most recipes for groundhog have you prepare them in the same manner.”
This quote comes from the excellent homesteading website Practical Self Reliance, which includes detailed, step-by-step instructions for skinning and cleaning your groundhog, as well as links to recipes such as Buttermilk Fried Groundhog and Woodchuck in Gravy.
Despite the risk of ending up on your dinner table or the pressure to be a harbinger of winter’s end, a groundhog never wants to be something other than a groundhog. There’s a certain animal wisdom there that we seem to have forgotten in our current mania for normalizing gender confusion. The fashionable obsession with all things “trans” extends to media aimed at children. While loudly condemning this sort of thing has its place, what’s also needed are children’s books that quietly reinforce timeless truths about our nature. Matthew Mehan’s new The Handsome Little Cygnet is a delightful riff on “The Ugly Duckling,” in which the title character attempts a comically disastrous attempt at rendering himself more “colorful.” Order is restored and worries soothed through unwavering familial love, ably conveyed by John Folley’s elegant illustrations.
Although only one day had elapsed for everyone else, at the end of Groundhog Day Phil Connors had acquired years, if not decades, of wisdom. We can only presume this made him a more conscientious and attentive meteorologist. Someone like veteran weatherman Alan Sealls.
On September 6, 2017, the people of the Gulf Coast were nervous. Three Hurricanes — Irma, Jose, and Katia –were set to make landfall in a matter of days. How bad would it be? Watching the news only served to stoke the fear. Looming catastrophic weather is the ultimate “developing story,” and most networks and affiliates seemed bent on milking the drama for as long as possible. Except for Mobile, Alabama’s WKRG-TV. Their viewers had Sealls on their side.
In a segment that soon went viral, Sealls calmly and patiently explained the progress the hurricanes had made, where they might be expected to go next, and the danger they might pose. Instead of sensationalism, Sealls went with science, helping viewers understand just what they were facing and repeatedly stressing that the models he was showing them “don’t control the weather.” In a media atmosphere prone to overheated rhetoric and the fog of self-regard, Sealls’s cool professionalism was a breath of fresh air.