Truth is, disconnected from mainstream media as I am, Groundhog Day doesn’t usually cross my radar. Most years, I don’t notice that January is over until Groundhog Day has come and gone. But this year, my son hand-drew a calendar as a school project and so I occasionally look at it. And this week I had one of those V-8 moments: staring at the February 2 square, hand slapping my own forehead, exclaiming, “I could have had a metaphor.”
As February begins, the days are finally noticeably longer, as evidenced by the fact that if I serve supper at five, no one wants to come inside to eat. The light approaches, and I start to stick my head out of my hole of doing indoor chores (mending, mostly) and pretending that the world doesn’t much extend beyond the safe warm burrow of my house. And like the groundhog, I might decide to stay inside for a while longer, and I might decide that it’s safe to come out, as long as I don’t have to see my shadow.
Thing is, like my rodent friend, I don’t much care for my shadow. I like to go along with my suburban homestead-lite life, getting ready for the next great shift in consciousness by teaching the kids how to save seeds, hopefully humming, and occasionally turning the compost. Mostly, if I keep my face to the light, I succeed. But if I slow down, turn around, and let the bright light behind me show me that my shadow side exists, I tend to retreat. Because the shadow side of my giddy green life is fear. Dark, nasty, scary nightmare-type fear. Fear of massive famines and societal breakdown and my kids and I holed up in our house protecting our saved seeds with a shotgun. Fear that climate change will bring about an unmanageable shift, and that humanity will not rise above but sink below our current level of function. Mankind has, after all, not such a great record of dealing fairly and peacefully with limited resources. I might just take my mending and hide under the covers for a few weeks yet.
Reconciling this real fear and my more hopeful self requires an act of will, one that the groundhog lacks. He simply reacts: sunlight = shadow = hide. I, on the other hand, apply the resources of my more developed frontal lobe to see the light and shadow, feel the fear, and move beyond it. Maybe the fear is well-founded, but hiding in my hole isn’t going to help any one or anything, least of all my kids, the ones around whose future my fears tend to churn.
So I’ll look at the shadow, and decide to turn the other way, and get the kids to fill some seed flats with soil so we can pull out the seeds we saved this year, and start to plant. And we’ll set those flats out in the bright sunlight, and be glad for it.
Full-time nurse, part-time environmentalist, and all-the-time mother, Kenna Lee lives in Sebastopol, California, with her three semi-feral children and several domesticated animals. Her book: A Million Tiny Things: a mother’s urgent search for hope in a changing climate (Moles Hill Press) will be out in April; sign up for updates at www.milliontinythings.com.