Monday, February 4, 2008

Behold the Groundhog

Bill and I were at a gathering yesterday comprised of several hardy Irish individuals (North and Republic varietals), a few US blow ins, and one Canadian. As is perhaps unavoidable in such company, the conversation turned many times to the wacky idioms and customs of the other culture. "The whole world doesn't know when Labor Day is, you know." "How do they know when to stop wearing white?"

When the topic of Groundhog Day came up, someone asked, "Isn't Groundhog Day a day when everything happens over and over again?" This person had never seen the movie, but knew the basic premise, so had only the reference of a day being lived over repeatedly. Our explanations of the true meaning of Groundhog Day made as little sense. We outlined the details: Shadow=More Winter; No Shadow=Spring Awakens. "Is there one groundhog?" "Yes. Punxsutawney Phil."

"But what does it mean?" Once again we were being asked to speak for all America: What does it mean? Why does every person reared in the US know that Feb 2 is dedicated to an indigenous rodent who any other day is more likely to meet with a shotgun than a top hat? Maybe it comes from a farmer's wisdom, based on the counterintuitive idea that sunny skies will actually delay spring? A young man from the heartland (i.e, Nebraska) enlightened us that it stems from a German festival. Eventually I waved my hand and said, "it is independent of all meaning." Which to one person at least, spoke significantly of the philosophical notion of nothingness. And perhaps he has a point, I tend to look for reasons to celebrate, and to me the charm of Groundhog day is we observe GHD for no better reason than "Why not?"

We did explain that for Murray's journalist character in GHD: The Movie, covering GHD is a ludicrous assignment, one of many non-news events that have to occur to maintain the fabric of society. The fact that this movie is potentially creating an idiom unmoored from its cultural reference is fascinating. Perhaps in the next decade persons in Ireland experiencing déjà vu will say, "Ah, I'm having a bit of the groundhog's day." Or for a particularly disturbing sense of the already seen, "Feck all, it's the bleedin' goundhog's day!"

By the way, sorry about the six more weeks of winter!

7 comments:

Celia said...

Phil P. didn't speak for us here in ARkansas. We have very warm weather here today. It is supposed to reach 79 degrees which is a record for this day. I hope we do have a few more days of winter.

mom Gunter said...

We are going to have weather in the 70's here in Huntsville tomorrow too with a chance of severe storms. We also have Monte Sano Marvin the official Huntsville ground hog or maybe he is the unofficial ground hog.
Tomorrow we vote in the primaries. It ought to be interesting.

Have you started work yet Sharon? What will you be doing?


Love you both bunches.

Sharon said...

I'll turn in my work permit application tomorrow probably. Hopefully it will be processed within a month and I'll start in March. I'll be a Business Analyst for a company that provides software services to the insurance industry (Life & Pensions here). Similar to what I was doing at ARC (the company where Bill and I both worked).

mom Gunter said...

Until then you can be our roving reporter and keep us informed by pictures and poetic word. I love your BLOG postings.

Holly said...

Hilarious!!!!!!!!

Lisa said...

I completely forgot about GHD until I read this. Apparently, I get my end of winter/start of spring news from Dublin!

Sharon said...

Well, since Austin has no discernible seasons, it is easy to lose track.