Punxsutawney Phil has spoken.
OK, he's a cousin, not a conventional "squirrel," and his meteorological message was interpreted by humans, rather than transmitted by from word-of-rodent-mouth delivery. But he has told us six more weeks of winter and we obedient humans had best bundle up for the duration.
Groundhog Day finds its roots in old German tradition but its draw has somehow survived, and flourished, in the New World. Out west, we now have Prairie Dog
Day, honoring yet another squirrel cousin - this one, an endangered variety.
Does anyone suspect that the manufacturers of winter outerwear perhaps sponsor these Groundhog Day events, a true celebration of winter, with each outerwear company bribing their own local prognosticators (we have them in New York too), hoping to make a killing in late-season parka and snow boot sales?
Nah. Me neither. I'm cynical but I'm not quite that jaded. Not yet anyway.
I think it's great that this tradition endures, and has even evolved into something new in the western states - a plea for prairie dog preservation. This turns an old European superstition about a big burrowing squirrel into a plea for environmental awareness out West and protection of an imperiled animal.
Meanwhile, it's still winter. And it will be for a while. But we can look forward to a bright new season nonetheless, one of Increased Squirrel Awareness coming out of the shadows.