What I prefer to think about, while I’m freezing my butt off the first day of January, is Groundhog Day.
The date, Feb. 2, I mean, not the Bill Murray film, though that’s OK, too, now that Ned Ryerson’s coming to town.
You remember Ned Ryerson, right? You’d better remember him, because he sure as heck remembers you:
Ned. Ned Ryerson. Needlenose Ned? Ned the Head? Case Western High? Got the shingles real bad, almost didn’t graduate? Did the whistling bellybutton trick at the high school talent show? Dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times until you told him not to?
Famed character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who in “Groundhog Day” played Ned Ryerson – the old classmate who accosts Bill Murray on the street – will be the featured artist at a Jan. 13 State Theater Gala honoring Paul Pierce’s three decades at the Springer Opera House.
Tickets are yet available. I’d buy one, but I’m afraid every day after that I’d wake up and it would still be Jan. 13.
Around the first of January, if the temperature’s plunging into the dead zone where you don’t want to go out in only a bath robe to get the paper and hear the door lock behind you, Groundhog Day is something to think about, because it marks the middle of winter: It’s the halftime show in cold-as-hell land.
And whether an actual groundhog happens to see his shadow when he’s dragged from hibernation by a guy in a top hat at the same time the sun is out – or just when a lot of TV lights are shining on him – spring then will be only about six weeks away, astronomically.
It will be here precisely at 12:15 p.m. March 20, when the tilted Earth revolves around to where the sun crosses the equator and begins to shine upon the Northern Hemisphere.
But don’t let that interfere with your groundhog folklore. It’s only an astronomical calculation, based on a spherical Earth that is not the center of the universe, and a lot of people don’t buy those wild science theories these days.
One in four Americans in a 2014 survey believed the sun revolved around the Earth. Probably some thought everything in the universe revolved around them personally.
Supposedly a lot of people these days think the Earth is flat, too. So it better not get hit on one edge by an asteroid, or it will go flipping end over end into space like a coffee cup saucer headed for a tile floor.
Some flat-earthers believe Antarctica is a wall of ice at the Earth’s edge, holding everything in. So they’d better be worried, because whether they don’t believe in climate change or not, that ice is melting. And once it melts, nothing will stop the oceans from pouring off the edge of the Earth.
And even if climate change is a myth like evolution and gravity and some politicians’ sexual harassment complaints, the Earth’s still getting warmer every year, so …
Once Groundhog Day gets here, who knows how soon, meteorologically, spring may arrive? We could be sweating through tornadoes by Valentine’s Day – grabbing the box of chocolates and bottle of wine and running like hell to the basement, if we have one.
That is what you should look forward to, these days, when the lows drop toward the teens, a month shy of the bleak midwinter: Just four weeks to go, and then we’ll be halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, the midway that is Groundhog Day.
It’s coming, so don’t despair. The solstice is over. The days are getting longer. This winter of our discontent will not last.
When every day seems the same as the last, we must endeavor to persevere. So, take deep breaths. Keep your cool. Cherish the moment. Ease off the throttle. Or as Bill Murray says in “Groundhog Day”: