“Separation,” Synchronicity, and a Surprising Case of Writer’s Block

squirrel on a ledge, looking into a window. A walkway and lawn are behind him.

My plans were to post something on Groundhog Day that was funny and informative. Instead, I ran into an odd childhood memory and Venn diagram of sorts. Six degrees of separation, animal style, and a week late.

Memories and synchronicity kicked in causing a lot of writer’s block. Giving up all my original ideas, I finally allowed this post to take a wild turn.

You see, I was thinking about how I felt as a kid. I wasn’t a fan of parading Punxsutawney Phil around. Anyone remember Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? A Sunday night fave in our household. I enjoyed it, but also spent a good portion of time hiding behind my hands and quietly chanting, run, run, run! to the prey animals.

Sometimes, when I think about Groundhog Day, a vivid visual of a poor groundhog yanked from his hole shows up. Here I am, struggling to write and I get that hit. On the heels of that, a vague and distant memory bubbled up: my parents complaining that groundhogs had eaten flower bulbs and were destroying the lawn. Add to that a shadowy story of my dad catching one…which I can only imagine. 😬 My mind (not factual because I didn’t see it, and I’m not sure why it chose this year to come to me) shows my dad reaching down a hole and pulling out a groundhog, much like Phil being raised up for the crowd. 😳

That definitely tripped me up.

So while I find the idea behind animals prognosticating the weather entertaining, I’m simultaneously horrified by the ceremony behind it, along with all the animal manhandling. Sometimes, it feels like an ancient ritual modernized Jackass-style (the show, if anyone remembers it).

Then, whilst procrastinating puzzling this out, I found this meme with the same image one of my sources used but with the following clever addition:

Poor Phil! Honestly, he looks none too pleased.

It felt so real 😕This is some trippy writer’s block, my friends. Or, perhaps distractions.

At any rate, I’ve always been somewhat horrified by Zoos, aquariums, and circuses (fascinated by the animals yet feeling incredibly sorry for them). Think about it: in some ways it’s holding an animal “hostage,” (Phil, who is purportedly 100 years old or something like that 🙄) yanking them out of their natural habitat and hibernation routine.

Making them perform.

Groundhogs should still be having their winter’s nap in February. We shouldn’t even be seeing them until March or April. I’d probably be dazed and confused if someone pulled me out of bed and drug me into the daylight, forcing me to make decisions.

Ah, decisions. The crux of my quandary.

I sat with that all day on February 2nd. Here’s where the synchronicity and “six degrees” come in as well as some mental hopscotch–strap in, people.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, ancient Europeans used badgers and hedge hogs for weather divination, but when the Germans came to Pennsylvania they had to use groundhogs. Choose your analogy: a recipe substitute of sorts or a pinch-hitter. Later, we have “Phil” who started his gig back in 1887.

As far as badgers go, there are a bunch of University of Wisconsin “badgers” in our family (go Bucky! 🦡), Monkey being the newest of them. Their American substitute, groundhogs, are large marmots, related to the squirrel. If you’ve been around for a while, you know I am entertained by these charming creatures, especially since I rarely see them where I live. However, the squirrel in the picture is taken from my desk and that’s my window ledge–taken during a Zoom call, no less 😁

Good times.

The day after, still reflecting on my groundhog quandary, a squirrel mention arrived in my inbox. Of course, I investigate. I watched an eight minute film about a Polish woman who raised a baby squirrel that had fallen out of its nest, Duduś, and was rejected by its mother.

Yes, cue the and I cried refrain.

Spoiler alert: this woman raised the abandoned baby squirrel like her own baby but knew that it had to eventually be released. I’m not lumping her in with Phil’s “captors,” because that baby was going to die without her help. I joke and don’t joke about “captors”–because according to the Farmer’s Almanac, groundhogs live longer in captivity, oddly enough.

My mind has been like a twister this week–lack of clarity and writer’s block. In writing this, I didn’t follow my 2023 word: Decide.

Just choose a thread, already! No, I’m taking you on a joy ride through my thought process.

I had all this info flying at me, shouting–decide, decide, decide! Or taunting me, depending on which day of the week it was. In some cases, tidbits would show up just as I decided to scrap the post. My animal quandary coupled with shenanigans–not funny, funny–going head-to-head.

I strung together the nuggets about groundhogs, badgers, and squirrels dropped along my path like bits of popcorn for the Christmas tree without really heeding the siren’s call for Ground Hog Day. People and animals shenanigans.

I’m maudlin about all the animals.

Maybe we should start a hashtag to free Phil from his horrible weather forecasting position. 🧐 He’s not very good at it…roughly 39% accuracy rate, if you’re really using him for that.

If you can stand the animal funny business, groundhogs aren’t the only prognosticators. There are other animals “vying” for Punxsutawney Phil’s weather gig. Forget the weather forecasting. I, myself, will stick to people and their pets or at least the animals that they love.

Give me a shoutout! 🤠

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