Thanks for nothing, Punxsutawney Phil. I take that back. I'm grateful, even for winter.
At 7:25 a.m. on the blustery first Thursday of February, groundhog Phil (no last name provided) waddled out at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to the cheers of thousands of humans who were frigid with anticipation of his winter forecast.
Within seconds, Phil reportedly spotted his shadow, just as 106 of his predecessors, all of them named Phil, have done over the course of this 137-year tradition. Can’t help but wonder if Phyllis might be a little braver.
Anyway, we are in for six more weeks of winter.
By “we,” I want to emphasize that we are not talking about those of you living where the palm trees sway. I am referring to people held hostage by the cold, gray days of snowy elsewhere. Not to make it all about me, but this includes me as I sit at my desk 172 miles from Gobbler’s Knob. We call it Cleveland.
To the disappointed and utterly disgusted, I long for the words to help you see the poetry of this season. It would help me, too.
The drama of winter hardship
Winter is a true hardship for many and let us acknowledge this. For many of us, however, it’s more of an inconvenience. Snowfall forces us to hunker down, to slow our movements and tame our days. As a culture, we Americans do not celebrate delays, and cancellations make us despair. Lots of drama.
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I do not exempt myself from this unfortunate habit. On the day before Christmas Eve, a winter’s storm upended plans across our region with the speed of a thundering locomotive. My daughter was on a flight with her family – my grandchildren, let’s be clear. Just as I was pulling into the airport, she texted that the plane was rerouted and headed back to Boston. I will spare you a description of my demeanor on the long, scary drive home, except to say that those of you who complain that I’m too cheerful (you know who you are) have no idea what you’re talking about.
Hours before that storm hit, I had applied dozens of snowflake decals to windows throughout our house because apparently, I am 65-year-old first grader. Six weeks later, the decals are still on the windows because they make my husband Sherrod smile. The last two days here have been shockingly sunny, and the decals are throwing snowflake shadows onto doors, rugs and furniture and, occasionally, on the backs of our two dogs. They are both rescues; Franklin, who is 11, was 9 weeks old when we adopted him. Four-year-old Walter has a more complicated back story, as he was rescued from the streets when he was about a year old.
Walter is an anxious little guy no matter how often we cuddle him, and until recently we just thought this was who he is meant to be. As our beloved vet said, we don’t know what happened to Walter before he was ours. Then winter intervened. During a recent cold spell, I bought him a cable-knit sweater and it changed his life. It turns out all Walter needed was to feel hugged every minute of the day and night. Now we have a little pile of those sweaters, and whenever I fold and stack them on top of the dryer it feels as if we have a toddler again. Sherrod says try not to say that out loud.
Under one of our decal-laden windows, four glass paperweights are lined up on a table next to my favorite reading spot in the living room. They represent the four seasons, and I bought them one at a time from the Corning Museum of Glass as our family of grandchildren grew. For years, I had only three, for autumn, winter and spring. When he was 9, grandson Clayton asked why one was missing. I explained that I was the only family member born in summer and they’re a bit pricey.
“I think you’re worth it,” he said.
We ordered it that day.
Grateful for all seasons, even winter
Those glass paperweights mean different things to our eight grandchildren. Ten-year-old Leo always checks to make sure the order of placement is correct, as the current season is always on the far left. Five-year-old Ela likes to mix them up to see if I notice. Seven-year-old Carolyn warns me to keep them away from her little brother. They seem to agree that the winter glass, with its crystal snowflakes, is the most magical. Christmas may be involved.
On Feb. 1, I flipped the page on the wildlife calendar that hangs to the left of the kitchen sink. I buy it each year from the same artist, not to tracks the days but to feel the greeting each morning from her whimsical animals. Right now, pink pelicans are gossiping in our kitchen.
When I was younger, as recent as a decade ago, I used to flip the calendar on the last day of winter months. Not anymore. Feels like wishing away a day, which strikes me as ungrateful. I don’t know how many winters I have left. I hope for many, and so it seems only right that I try to find at least one reason to be glad each day is here.
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Toward that goal, I have a large and hollow ceramic rooster on our kitchen counter that, over a year’s time, fill with my notes of gratitude. Some days, that takes a bit of creative thinking (see daughter’s rerouted flight, above), but it seldom takes much effort to find what I’m looking for, which is a reason to be glad I am alive, even in winter.
Especially in winter, because here we are. Lucky you, lucky me.
USA TODAY columnist Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winner whose novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” is a New York Times bestseller. You can reach her at CSchultz@usatoday.com or on Twitter: @ConnieSchultz
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Groundhog Day results: Why I'm grateful, even for winter