The Whistle Pig has spoken, winter’s over. Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year. In my house, watching Phil’s forecast live on TV is an important annual event. I’m obsessed with Bill Murray’s masterpiece-movie, Groundhog Day. Murray is given the curse – or gift – of living the same day over and over until he does it right. Watching the Punxsutawney live-broadcast is my way of ironically honoring the movie. It is an identical scene every year.
The groundhog’s prediction always surprises me. I live in Gettysburg – Punxsutawney is only a few hours away – I always think I know which way Phil will go, but year after year he makes the exact opposite prediction. This year, he saw no shadow, but when I went outside, not a cloud in the sky. The forecast seems right though. Other than huge drifts of snow in every direction, it was a spring day.
Ten days ago, we got crushed with a snow storm: Winter Storm Jonas, Snowzilla, the Blizzard of 16. It started snowing on Friday evening, and I came home from work with plans to run some wintry trails in the morning. I was expecting six or eight inches of the fluffy stuff around breakfast time – the perfect depth for a slow, snowy run. I awoke to well over a foot, and by the time I was caffeinated and fed, we were pushing twenty inches. With my run canceled, I spent the rest of the weekend shoveling snow and taking short awestruck walks through my neighborhood and the woods that border our development.
Moving almost thirty inches of snow off my driveway more than compensated for my missed run, so my plan was hold off on running until the following Saturday. Then I would go extra long. Well, that Saturday has come and gone; I spent the day nursing my wrenched back. I’ve talked with lots of people complaining about back pain this week. Even people with snow-blowers got a hard workout with this storm. We all had a pile of snow to move, and in truth, some people are still moving theirs around. Not me, my property was shipshape over a week ago. And after my snow-shoveling binge, I felt great. It was my Tuesday night sledding mishap that wrecked my back.
Leaving the house with Sophie and Eli, Susan gave me her trademark “Be careful!” She says this any time I’m about to do something fun – jet-skiing, dropping off a zip-line into a pond, and now going sledding with my kids. At least four times across the hour we were sledding, Sophie said “Dad, don’t hurt yourself!” Eli, of course, was egging me on – encouraging me to take the paths with the biggest jumps. Peer pressure form a ten year old.
Sophie was cold, Eli was having trouble walking up the icy hill. “One more run, then we’re heading home.” That was me. I wanted to really let loose on my cheap plastic toboggan – see what it could handle. Near the bottom of the hill, I hit a big dip and fell backwards on the sled. I suppose I bruised a rib. I definitely pulled a back muscle. And for that first painful moment, I had a flashing image of my brother’s fifty year old friend who broke his back on a trampoline (not falling off of a trampoline, just bouncing on a trampoline).
The current ten-day forecast matches Phil’s. We’re in a warming trend. I won’t fool myself that the winter-weather is over, but it looks like the first half of February won’t include any. And by that time, we’ll be one-third closer to spring.
For the past week, I’ve been somewhat hobbled. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling good enough to go for a short hike, but for the most part, I missed my chance to play in the snow. I worked my butt off shoveling it, and I went sledding for an hour, but I never got to go for that long, snowy run. I never built a snowman. By next weekend, I think my back will feel better, but all that will be left is slush and mud.
Punxsutawney Phil might have nailed it this year. Winter appears to be mostly over – less than two weeks after it started – and this I find a little depressing. I don’t even like winter. It mostly interferes with the activities I like to do most: run, hike, and bicycle. But it’s also a part of the natural rhythm of the year. A chance to rest and reboot. To hibernate. To spend time with family on frigid winter nights. But this winter, we might skip that all together. Now I just want my back to heal so I can get out and run.