ESCANABA - Tomorrow is February.
The snow heaps piling up outside of our windows and the long arms of icicles hanging down from the eaves can't trap us with cabin fever.
February is fun, even though it is freezing.
Karen Wils photos
Punxsutawney “Will” has a little more digging to do in the U.P. on Feb. 2 than his Pennsylvania counterpart.
February is silly even though the snow banks grow.
Warm wool covered wiggles and goofy giggles start on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. People start thinking that they see fuzzy brown critters popping their heads out of the snow to check on the weather.
Mid-winter is time to get a little squirrelly or act a little nutty by going outdoors with a baseball cap on instead of a chook or Kromer, burn a snowman, grill out on the snowy deck or open the car window for a minute or two.
Legend has it that on Feb. 2, ground hogs come out of their hibernation burrows and look for their shadows. If this furry member of the marmot family sees his shadow, he is frightened and heads back into his hole for another six months of winter.
If the sky is cloudy and the groundhog does not cast a shadow, it means spring is well on its way.
In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a special groundhog named Phil is a meteorologist for the day. A big celebration with TV cameras and fanfare greet Punxsutawney Phil, even if he predicts six more months of winter.
Here in Upper Michigan, the idea of a groundhog waking up on Feb. 2 and tunneling through several feet of hard packed snow and ice is pretty preposterous. Most of us Yoopers know that we are not likely to see a groundhog until April or May. (Unless we have a sip or two too many of wine)
And even if thousands of groundhogs went shadowless on Feb. 2, we sure as well know we are going to have a least two or three more months of winter!
In our neck of the woods, the groundhog is called a woodchuck. Woodchuck comes from "wunchak" a Cree Indian word. U.P. woodchucks are cute little chubby guys of summer. They are most often found in old fields and open hardwoods. Occasionally, they will get into gardens with their love of green vegetation.
Woodchucks whistle and chatter their teeth when they feel threatened. They are important in the food chain providing food for foxes and coyotes. Their underground homes fertilize and aerate the earth.
So, tomorrow is February and after all the cold weather we've had, we deserve to do something silly. Don't let cabin fever get you down.
Break out a lawn chair, put on your parka, fix yourself an ice cream cone and sit outside. For excitement, use food coloring to paint your neighbor's snow pink. Stick some artificial flowers in the snow bank at the end of your driveway.
But most of all, watch for woodchucks, especially ones named Phil. Think positive. Spring is just around the corner down the road a mile or twoanother corner
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.