Snow is piled so deep in metropolitan New York that Malverne Mel, a regional rodent of some notoriety, has ended up taking a powder. Winter’s long frozen shadow has snuffed out his prognosticating prowess.
That's left Malverne Mel on burrowed time. He plans to be a no-show in the great outdoors. Not even Punxsutawney Phil could have predicted this: A winter so bad that even one of his fellow groundhogs can't take it.
That leaves us with a few meager options to discern if we’ll have an early spring:
1. Play the 1978 Andy Gibb hit, “Shadow Dancing,” backwards. (This would be a lot easier in the age of vinyl instead of MP3s). Gibbs’ voice, though barely intelligible, can be heard identifying the date on which the temperature will crawl past the 60-degree mark.
2. Shine a flashlight on a squirrel. If he sees his shadow – and don't worry, he will – you will owe him six more weeks of walnuts. Squirrels don’t care about spring anyway. They’ve been mating since December and scoff anything resembling a calendar. They all know that us fool humans will feed them no matter what the month or season.
3. You can also wait until Feb. 3. That’s the start of the next major holiday, Chinese New Year. This year we celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents - but even if the groundhog doesn’t show up, the rabbit will be right on schedule. The Lunar Calendar guarantees it.
Here's the good news: rabbits move so fast they're rarely looking for their own shadows. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are calm, considerate, outgoing, friendly and gregarious. They also do not enjoy conflict. The Year of the Rabbit that lies ahead of us is described, in general, as a quiet year.
With one less groundhog out there to stir things up during a winter that almost everyone seems to be cursing, that rabbit may be just what we need.
Especially if the rabbit turns out to be Bugs Bunny: What we need, now more than ever, is for the rabbit to take one look at the snow - the same snow that's keeping Malverne Mel underground - and tell us, "Th-th-th-th-th-th-that's all folks!"