Sunday, February 2, 2014

Six More Weeks of Winter

Ebb-tide has come to me as to the sea;
old age makes me yellow;
though I may grieve thereat,
it approaches its food joyfully.

Beginning of "The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare"

We're halfway through winter. American children will hear tales of Punxsutawney Phil tomorrow, wrapped in cozy classrooms, many with bellies full of lunches made of stuff grown and prepped by people they will never meet.

The groundhog saw his shadow today--six more weeks of winter, or so the story goes.

On the same day Phil amuses us in Pennsylvania, An Cailleach Bhearra, the Hag of Beare, wandered around back in the 10th century in western Ireland, looking for firewood. If she needed plenty to last through a long winter, she made sure the day was sunny. If winter's going to be short, she made the day gray, and she slept in.
The crocuses are breaking through the clam shells.

I am not a pagan, but if you're going to celebrate humans dragging rodents out of their burrows, doesn't hurt to know the science behind the American myth, based on stories of early Christian myths (Candlemas), themselves founded on earlier pagan myths developed back when paying attention to the natural world might keep you alive one more winter.

Why not make this a special day for elementary science education?

The next three months will see the days grow longer faster than they do at any other time of year. We gain over two more minutes a day of sun now at our latitude. We'll gain a quarter hour of sunlight a week, over an hour's worth in a month.

So when children gather around the internet this morning to see Phil's forecast, brush up on your astronomy and spend a moment or two asking the students to watch what happens to daylight in the next few weeks.

I'm going to look for crocuses today.

Corn dolly from Miskinfolk website here
Punxsutawney Phil's cartoon from his official site here

And 2014 update--yesterday's warmth melted almost all the snow--and I saw the first crocus spear of the new year!

This was originally posted in 2009.

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