Monday, February 2, 2009

Me and My Shadow

Zoe clearly saw her shadow this morning.
She's still mystified and a bit disenchanted
by the concept of a holiday dedicated to a groundhog.
"Of all the animals..." she keeps muttering.

We here in Pennsylvania are pretty proud of our weather predicting Hog. Though I always feel bad for him having to be dragged out of bed to have his cute belly exposed on national television. And, every year, we say, "Of course he saw his shadow! He's under all those lights from the TV cameras!"

Nevertheless, it's a fun holiday, and I like it.

One summer when I was little, we had a groundhog (we called him a "woodchuck" but they are the same thing-- they also go by the monikers "land beaver" and "whistle pig"), who would come into our yard every evening at dusk to munch our grass. He had one lame leg, maybe from a birth defect, maybe from an accident. Needless to say, he wasn't the fastest woodchuck on the block. We called him Woodrow.

My dad and I took to going out to sit in the yard near Woodrow each night when he would amble out from the field behind our yard for his evening repast. Each evening, the three of us inched a little closer and a little closer. Finally, one night, Woodrow let my dad give him a little pat. After a few days, my dad let me try. Groundhogs have really wicked teeth. If they went postal on you, you'd be in trouble. So, we took our time.

I'll never forget the feeling of his fur. Soft, yet course. He felt like a combination of a cat and a porcupine, if you can imagine such a combo. He looked right at me when I petted him. Right into my eyes. His eyes didn't looked scared. Maybe because he knew he was too slow to get away anyway.

But I like to think maybe he knew our intention was just to spend a little time with him and make a little connection with him.

We stopped petting him after a couple of days. We didn't want him to get freaked out, and we were worried his friends might see him hanging out with people and shun him. But we still enjoyed sitting out in the grass to watch him.

After that summer, we never saw him again. Perhaps he retired to Punxatawny?

Whatever the case, I have always felt honored by that experience. It's something I'll never forget.

As a totem animal (Blisschick butting in here), groundhogs are considered powerful but difficult. They are challenging us to enter more deeply into our subconscious. They are often the totem animals of shamans and mystics.

"Whatever!" Zoe said and rolled her eyes.

Let's all raise our glasses in a toast: "To the magical, mystical groundhog!"

Bottom's Up. Cheers to the Whistle Pig.


Anonymous said...

What an awesome story! =D

carlikup said...

Aaaaah, what a nice story ...

It reminds me of my grandfather. In the summer, at our camp by the lake, he taught me how to sit still, in a certain way, and after practicing for several weeks, I had little chipmunks crawling all over me ~ it wa such an awesome feeling. But wow, you actually got to caress this furbaby, that's powerful ~ lucky you! I must say, I am a total sucker for stories like this!