By North Carolina standards, this has been a mild winter. There have only been a couple of cold snaps and, as I write this column, it is shirt-sleeve weather outside. We’ve only had to muddle through one winter storm.
So it was with bated breath that I awaited the prognostications of the national Groundhog herd. As it turns out, there was a consensus opinion among Punxatawney Phil, Raleigh’s Sir Walter Wally and Garner’s Snerd. All three critters are calling for an early spring. Of course, that’s perhaps about as reliable as licking your finger and holding it up to the wind to determine when the next storm is coming.
But it’s the best we’ve got – apologies to all our local meteorologists and their fancy computer models and such – and your columnist sometimes needs something a little cuter than the TV weatherman to write about.
Of course, there can be real trauma for these animals if they get their predictions wrong. Last year in Garner, Snerd was on his first go-round as the town’s official winter weatherman following the retirement of the beloved Mortimer. Turns out the rookie got his prediction wrong and received death threats by email. That conjures up several images in my mind.
First, can you imagine a groundhog sitting at the computer going through his email? Click. Click. Click. Junk. Junk. Junk. Then... a mean-spirited email from someone frustrated by a long, tense winter.
The other image I can’t escape is of the person who actually sits at his or her computer and composes such a message. One would certainly like to think it was all in jest and, thankfully, the groundhog police force has done a remarkable job providing protection for our famous groundhogs.
Regardless of who’s predicting what, I’m anxious to see winter come to an end. I’m ready to get outside and see the color return to the leaves on the trees and walk under the shade of the big oaks in our yard.
Yes, warmer weather means the grass will grow and I will have to pull out the lawnmower, but that seems a small price to pay for the chance to get out of the house and be active again. And with the end of football season coming with Sunday’s Super Bowl, there’s really nothing worth staying inside for until August.
I don’t care how old or how young you are, there’s just something invigorating and refreshing about getting outside and taking in what the neighborhood has to offer. I walk my dog at night because he’s not always the friendliest fellow and we encounter less traffic than we might during the daytime. But in the spring and summer, when the sky stays bright longer, I like to sit on the front porch and watch what goes on. I see people jogging or walking through the neighborhood. Sometimes they are pushing a stroller. That image just exudes happiness to me.
So, I’m more than happy to say goodbye to winter and hello to spring.
Then, of course, here’s the Debbie-Downer. Amidst all the excitement over the Groundhog Day predictions, the National Weather Service points out that February is usually the coldest month of the year. That doesn’t bode well for people who want to put away the snow boots for the year. It only takes one well-timed cold front and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to drop a winter pounding on this area.
Just as we get comfortable with the notion that we’ve escaped a relatively calm winter storm season, Mother Nature loves to remind us that she, not Phil, Wally or Snerd, will decide when winter ends around here.