Today is Groundhog Day, a day on which we get our extended weather forecast for a rodent. It's a schtick, of course: if he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter; if he doesn't, spring is only six weeks away. You do the math.
But this is a day about more than the gimmick. Groundhog's Day is about hope. I think that's why we're all willing to wonder where the shadows are this morning. Are they here? Are they not?
It's because by the beginning of February, the winter has been quite long enough. The short days. The long nights. The darkness. The grey skies. The cold temperatures. The world lies dormant - all the plants have tucked away into the earth for the season. Nothing new is growing. Nothing is showing its colors. The world is pale, and we're all ready for a little spring. We're ready for the trees to start budding, for the skies to clear, for the crocus and all its little friends to start poking out of the ground.
Then the groundhog peeks out and we're all like, We'll take it. At least something's coming out of this cold, dead ground.
That's the hope of the groundhog - he's the first thing every year to pop his little head out of the ground and remind us that the earth is preparing to spring forth with new life. He's the first new life. He's the first indication that something is going to grow, that something's going to happen, that this earth is going to breathe again.
And he's looking for the same things we're looking for - he's looking for a little light. The entire gimmick of the groundhog centers around the light. Is there enough light to see his shadow? Is there only darkness? Which is more powerful? A little bit of light always wins; in a speck of light, there is always a shadow.
I'm told he saw his shadow this morning, which means six more weeks of winter. It's a bit counterintuitive - shouldn't the presence of light mean spring is closer? If the groundhog sees his shadow, shouldn't that mean the light is already starting to rise? Maybe. But there's another way to look at this, too. That there's enough light today for him to see his shadow (and seriously, who couldn't see his own shadow in the glare of all the television lights?), then maybe that little glimpse is enough for him to hold on for six more long weeks of winter. Maybe the combination of coming out of the ground and having a shadow at all is enough hope for a few more days of a season of darkness.
I know from a human point of view, it would be nice. Just enough of a breath of the seasons changing, just enough hope to keep holding on. It's encouragement. It's strength renewed. For the briefest of moments, we get one good breath. For the briefest of moments, we get one streak of light. And suddenly, we know: spring is coming. We just have to get through the winter. And suddenly, we can. It doesn't seem as hard. It doesn't seem as grinding. Just six more weeks. Just a little bit longer. Then the light will shine for real and we can watch our shadows dance.
But suppose the groundhog got up this morning and saw no shadow. Suppose he popped his head out of the ground and looked around and saw nothing. Then they'd say that spring is just around the corner. This, too, is a message based in hope. It's a reminder that even though today is dark, it doesn't last forever. The seasons are still changing. Spring is still coming. You just have to hold on a little longer.
That's what I love about this day - it's the hope. It's the message, either way, that you just have to hold on a little longer. That you just have to push through this season and get there. Spring is coming.
I don't know what season of your life you're in right now, but take a lesson from the groundhog today. Poke your head out of the ground and dare to be the first thing to breathe in the new life of a new season. Look around, take stock, and grab hope. This season doesn't last forever; something new is just around the corner. Spring is coming.