Monday, February 2, 2009

Dancing With My Shadow

"Be honest . . . does this fur make me look fat?"

* * * * *

Groundhog Day. It always makes me laugh . . . and we celebrate it every year. A simple, silly tradition that brings the townsfolk out to observe the shadowed/shadowless state of a furry varmint infects the Nation (and the World) with a lighthearted spirit of weather prognostication. We have Groundhog Fever here, as we do every year. Will we see an early spring? Will this wintry weather continue unabated for six more weeks? Every year since childhood I arise on February 2nd and wonder about the groundhog and his shadow.

Today as I dance in tandem with my shadow – on a clear, bright, sunny day here in California – I pray for those iced over in other parts of the world. I know that the little critter on Gobbler’s Knob has no power to predict the forthcoming weather, but it reminds me how important “Holidays” figure in the weaving of lives together, even those little holidays. Holidays spread a special spirit which causes us to stop and remember our brother, neighbor, friends, and strangers on this big ball we call home and join hands and hearts in unison of thought, if only regarding a furry thermometer in the dead of winter.

Although not as well publicized as Christmas and Easter and other profoundly-marketed days of celebration and worship, Groundhog Day offers our family another opportunity to dance together and remember past Groundhog Days. We fondly recall watching that silly Bill Murray movie (which we will doubtless watch again tonight . . . and laugh just as uproariously as always, shouting out “Don’t Drive Angry!” or “Watch that first step, it’s a doozy!” in unison, attesting to the fact that we have seen this movie waaaaaay tooooooo maaaaaany times). My children laugh and trade fond memories of running outside to find their shadow in the morning, eating “porcupines” for dinner (meatballs with rice in a yummy tomato-y sauce), snuggling on dad’s lap for a movie DURING THE WEEK, and staying up late to laugh and grin with the grownups.

Silly holidays have always been a favorite of mine because they relieve stress rather than create it. The mood and meal of a Groundhog Day or Summer’s Solstice floats lightheartedly from one family member to another. Whereas on Groundhog Day we snuggle before a roaring fire, watch a silly movie, and cheer/chide more winter (we tend to like winter here in California because of it’s brevity and beauty), The Longest Day of the Year finds us out of doors dining under a canopy of leafy splendor, eating berries, and boiled new potatoes, and fish and other Norwegian delights as Folksongs fill the air and children laugh and play until looooong past the latest sundown of the year.

At age 17 I landed in Norway ready to embark on a summertime adventure and my “family” greeted me with an introduction to Norway in celebration of that eternally-sunny day. Bonfires, folksongs, the freshest foods I’d ever eaten, and lots of gaiety sewed an important memory into my heart and I vowed to celebrate this way every year. Back in the US I found few in my proximity who even knew of a longest day, let alone celebrated it. I did read of a pagan group that invited celebrants, but I believe a “clothing optional” clause kept me and others away.

These tiny holidays marked with a smile and a calendar blip enchant me more than the Biggies, because they reaffirm the joy of finding something to celebrate in each day. Years ago when Gary worked exhaustive hours and I worked at home raising our three (only three then) children, we set aside Friday evening as our “Family Fun Night.” This meant Gary HAD to come home by dinnertime (which he often missed all the other nights of the work-week), we had FUN food (usually homemade pizza – too poor for delivery), and enjoyed dancing, singing, acting out plays, games, or a movie. The menu and activity list mattered little because we had each other and we celebrated that jubilantly. To this day we celebrate Family Fun Night with the same gusto, and Gary hasn’t worked away from home for over 10 years. Another little holiday that keeps our family together.

Date Night arrives every Thursday as it has for over 12 years and I still anticipate it with glee. Though this little weekly ritual grew out of the near-failure of our marriage, I rejoice that a simple evening alone once a week sewed up the tears in our hearts and wiped away the tears from my face.

I have found all sorts of little ways to sprinkle touchstones of joy throughout our day, week, year . . . The early churches of the world larded their calendar with days of remembrance because they knew that we needed to be reminded to celebrate life. The hardships of life, the slog of daily chores, the pain of loss and death can well overwhelm the most saintly worshippers. How fitting to have joyful moments planted along the pathway to surprise us, delight us, and knit us closer together in a world where relationships and townships crumble and fray without repair.

So, I encourage you to kick up your heels and dance a little jig of joy with those in Gobbler’s Knob. Forget about any superstitious nonsense about weather prediction; instead, grab onto the FACT that an evening spent around the table sharing a simple meal (no big roast beast needed to celebrate shadow dancing with a critter), playing a game, or even staying up PAST BEDTIME watching a silly movie about a silly guy learning a VERY IMPORTANT life’s lesson will knit your hearts closer together. (p.s. ~~ Not all scenes in the above-mentioned movie are family friendly for those of us sensitive to a bit of violence and such . . . preview and use the FF option when needed).

Okay, Monday has arrived and I need to get ready for tonight’s “party.” The house needs a bit of extra tidying, as we celebrated a “Day of Rest” yesterday and I took full advantage. Whew! All this celebrating each week is . . . SIMPLY WONDERFUL!

Happy Monday!

Happy Groundhog Day!


sukipoet said...

A lovely post, quite full of interesting things. Such as your trip to Norway and the story of how you came to celebrate the quiet holidays. Ground Hog Day, a day without stress except for poor groundhog on whose back rests the prediction that will either make people cheer or cry. I watched that movie once, very funny. Have a wonderful celebration. Is winter alomst over????? Please say yes.

Karen said...

Can you believe that we've never been to Punxy for the big PA holiday? We may have to remedy that some year.

I'm sure your winter will be over before long, but ours will definitely drag out for a good 6 weeks. *sigh* The groundhog knows all. haha

noble pig said...

Yes the fur makes you looks fat! Luckily it makes you cute as well!

Becky said...

For us Groundhog's Day simply marks the delay of winter for six weeks... it is sure to return halfway through march, bless us with a few more dustings of slush then finally be pushed out by Spring come mid-April.

The 'groundhogs' on our mountain don't even bother coming out until May ;-)

Judith said...

Ground Hog Day. I have always believed that, since there are an awful lot of ground hogs, that each locality has its own little wild critter that pokes its nose out just after dawn on February 2 and then goes back to bed, for either 6 weeks, or 5 weeks and 6 days. Although we never actually see her, we do see our shadows, or not. This year it was sunny and warmer - so shadows - so 6 weeks. It's not over yet.

FancyHorse said...

What a joyful post! I loved reading about all the sweet little traditions your family celebrates!

Dawn said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I love the "little" holidays as well. I hope you had a great Groundhogs Day.

Karen Deborah said...

Fat fat fat. Very cute critter. I've thought for a long time that you have a party nearly every day, and see here is another one. Sounds like fun to me.

MARIA said...

Good Morning, dear Debbie!

Very interesting post, thank you for sharing.
I heard about Groundhog celebration in Polish TV.

Happy Groundhog Day!

farmlady said...

Thanks for a wonderful post Debbie.

You "...reaffirm the joy of finding something to celebrate each day."

CIELO said...

A delightful post.... a dozen robins came to my garden yesterday just to remind me that no winter lasts for ever..... ;)



Michelle said...

Great post, Debbie! It made me smile for sure. Groundhog Day (the movie) is one of my favorite movies of all and it was on today (of course)! I think it's very important to set aside those not-so-big days (as you say date night). It's the smaller things in life that really do count and I think that we really remember most of all in the end. :)