Oh Prognosticate, Ye Furry Rodent

funny-groundhog-03I spend a few moments this morning looking through the window in my pajamas. In early February, this means staring at the snow, the freezing rain, the fog, the gray, or whatever form of unpleasant weather is rallying outside like a group of pissed off vikings.

While I gape, thoughts and scenarios go through my mind, all of which would encourage a psychologist to commit me to a local brain hatchery.

Today, I am thinking about a furry rodent who lives 4,262 miles west of Prague. It’s this rodent who is going to decide our winter fate.

Whether you know it or not, the length of winter is decided by Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog who is taken out every February 2nd and asked to prognosticate the arrival time of spring. If he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring comes early.

So, there’s a lot riding on this morning’s outcome.

Winter is a tough time to live anywhere north. The Czech Republic has these moist cold winters so that no matter how much you layer or wrap yourself in clothing, the cold still sneaks into your bones. This results in a constant chill, and a 93% chance of it being cold on your neck.

Paradoxically, this also results in dry skin, so you have the joy of scratching and itching all winter. You have to be creative, like reaching into your boots with a straightened-out wire hanger to scratch the patch of dry skin under the arch of your foot or buying a toilet brush for the sole purpose of scratching the otherwise unreachable middle of your back.

You know, hypothetically.

Winter is also tough on teachers. It’s testing time and essay time, so I am the most in-demand, popular, and hilarious person in any room inhabited by students whose lives I momentarily rule with the prospect of their grades. There is no exaggeratory metaphor in existence that suitably conveys the drastic devolution of my popularity 0.2 seconds after I give out those grades.

And all this happens in winter, the lethargic, depressing, and dark time of year. The time when I start to understand Nick Drake songs and Sylvia Plath’s poetry.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I love winter the way I love work on Monday mornings. Winter is that time of year when we suffer, when we’re itchy and aggravated and half-frozen. But at the end of winter comes spring, and not just spring, but a spring we have earned. Because the only thing better than a Czech spring is the fact that it comes at the end of a Czech winter.

This joy is unknown to those people who live in Earthly paradises like San Diego or Hawaii. They are like those trust-fund kids for whom Monday morning might as well be Saturday morning and for whom life is one big party. But who enjoys a Friday happy hour more, the guy who’s worked all week or the guy who hasn’t? Dealing with a rough winter means enjoying spring all the more.

And today, Punxsutawney Phil will tell us if that’s going to happen sooner rather than later, so I am keeping an eye on his forecast today. I suggest that all you northern residents do the same. And if you’re wondering why anyone should care what a furry rat has to say about the upcoming forecast, just remember that his prognostications are 75-90% correct and American meteorologists’ are not.

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