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MARTHA SEZ: Oh, groundhog

February 9, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

As I sit typing this column, it is the second day of February. In the United States and Canada, this is Groundhog Day, a day, like the first of April, dedicated to foolishness.

Groundhog Day is predicated on the flimsy pretext that if the groundhog sees his shadow upon emerging from his burrow, he will go back into hibernation or perhaps a state of torpor-whatever-and so we will have six more weeks of winter.

It is best not to think too much about this. Trying to understand the logic of Groundhog Day can make you crazy.

Groundhogs notwithstanding, we are bound to have more than six weeks of winter. Recently, when it was 28 degrees below zero, I was trying to think of people I know who live in warmer climates, so I could call them up and casually mention what the temperature was here.

"Of course, that's not counting wind chill. Oh, you get used to it."

By the time February rolls around in the North country, no one can remember what August was like. January was impossibly long this year. I look out the window now and see the yard covered in snow, crisscrossed with paths made by people, dogs, cats and deer. You can tell just by looking at it that the ground is hard and crunchy.

When the temperature falls below zero, snow makes a peculiar squeaking sound when you step on it. Bare black branches of neighborhood trees cast intricate blue violet shadows over the white glare. The sun is out. The sky is blue. The groundhog saw his shadow. We will have six more weeks of winter. LOL. It seems it has always been winter. It is difficult to imagine anything else.

A gang of over-wintering birds appears: blue jays, demanding to be fed. They sit in the highest branches of the apple tree and shriek at me through the upstairs window. They want me to throw out more peanuts for them. They love peanuts. One by one, they dive down, grab a peanut and fly back to perch in the tree to crack it. No matter how many peanuts I throw out, they never leave one behind. I have heard they cache surplus food in trees or in the eaves of a house.

Yesterday I was out of peanuts when the jays-usually I count seven-showed up, hopping around in the apple tree, feathers all puffed up against the cold. I had some whole grain cereal a friend had given me. Wholesome, natural, nutritious.

The little ruffians watched from the apple tree as I scattered the cereal. One dive bombed down, flew back up with a morsel, inspected it and let it drop. That was it. Eventually the jays took off.

Oh drat, I thought. Pretty soon Louise, who gave me the cereal, was bound to stop by, and she would see that I had been throwing it out for the birds. I was hoping it would snow, and eventually it did, just in time, big, soft flakes covering the evidence before she arrived.

Louise told me that she was so glad that the temperature dipped back down to the frigid zone after our usual January thaw, because she was late putting up her storm windows, and she wanted to feel that she had not been improvident, closing the barn door after the horse had escaped, so to speak. I know a couple who staple-gunned plastic over their windows during the thaw, and they were glad for the same reason when the temperature plummeted. My friend the late John Van Hazinga once told me about a New Hampshire man who went round and round his cabin, sheathing it in layers of black plastic as insulation against the cold, then cut out a hole for the door. The idea was to save money on heat, and it probably worked, but I don't know of anyone around here who would go that far.

Cold weather is Kleenex weather. When I took my heaviest coat out of the closet this season, I guessed it would have an ancient scrap of tissue in one of the pockets, and it did. You always hope you'll find money in a coat pocket, a twenty or at least a ten spot, and back in the days-the years-when I was trying to quit smoking, I hoped for a forgotten pack of cigarettes. No dice. Just the Kleenex.

Courage. Spring will come. Not in six weeks, though.

Have a good week.



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