Maria von BrinckenGroundhog Day

Yesterday, February 2nd, was Groundhog Day. On this day, according to quaint custom, we watch to see if the groundhog sees its shadow or doesn’t. The shadow or lack of, forecasts an early spring or a much longer winter. I celebrate this mid winter day by watching the movie of the same name. For years friends organized a party just to do that – I continue the tradition.

The movie made in 1993 stars Bill Murray playing the “jerk” Phil Connors. Wikipedia describes him as “an arrogant and egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.”

From the movie Groundhog Day, 2005

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, 2005. Photo Aaron Silvers

The moral reminder being that we can change our habits if we notice them – Phil Connors was forced to from the shear boredom of repeating the exact same day – Groundhog Day – over and over. He finally noticed and the transformation began. He choose to learn to play the piano, help others, and in the process won the girl and made it to February 3rd!

I love this movie. It reminds me in the bleakness of a New England winter we can choose what to do with our everyday life that seems set in schedules. Makes me asks the questions each year as to what I would do differently in my life if I had the time that the film character does. And, of course, the point is not lost on me that I do have the time and what do I really want to do in my life. How do I choose to live it.

Groundhog Marmota monax Photo Reinhard Kraasch

Groundhog Marmota monax Photo Reinhard Kraasch

The title and the day make me think of a choice gardeners have – whether to wage war on the animals. Groundhogs or hedgehogs, rabbits, deer, voles, turkeys, and more don’t realize that they invade “our gardens”. They seem to think they have the right to trespass and eat whatever they want. So their lack of understanding usually means a death warrant because we don’t see our gardens as part of the animals’ homes, indeed as part of the earth web of life we all are a part of.

I’m lucky in that with fencing the deer don’t stop by for breakfast. The groundhogs used to devour all my asters and pansies in the back garden. Rather than engaging in war with them I simply stopped planting anything they like to eat. I plant those in the front gardens that the groundhog doesn’t get to til August and then I might spray the asters with nasty tasting stuff to discourage them. I’ve stopped filling my bird feeders regularly so thwart the raccoons who can empty them in a flash – much too expensive to feed the raccoon and her family.

But I’m sympathetic with people who have huge problems with foraging animals and still want gardens. It’s really hard to tell someone as a designer what they really can’t have – though usually I can solve the design issue using a variety of beautiful plantings – just often not the homeowners wish list of English Garden Borders. Although I’ve had some success with deer fencing. It’s the life choice of choosing not to hate the animals who are just trying survive in areas that we have built our homes in. It’s a choice not to step into that loop.

Maria-von-Brincken-pink-roses-on-counter-600x800-e1357342071291Or the loop of finding each winter day looking the same – dull green. I find that by February I have to work to look for the changes in the landscape. Snow – dirty or fresh – is obvious. And so is the way the light changes as the sun rises higher on our horizon each day. Really beautiful when I make myself pause to enjoy it. But still, the cold makes all the conifers and broadleaf evergreens a really dull green. That’s why I retreat to my created indoor green oases. That’s why cut flowers are so important to me. I started doing that because of something wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil stressed as an important health habit. In the summer, a vase fills with something from my garden. But winter the supermarket florists lure me in with bright colors and scents when I’m on my way to buy milk.

Amazing what a movie named for a quaint local animal tradition can provoke so many avenues of thought. By the way, this year’s forecast is for an early spring!

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Maria von Brincken

About Maria von Brincken

Award-winning landscape designer, garden journalist and lecturer, certified practising designer with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), former contributing editor to Landshapes magazine. Sudbury, Massachusetts. Read Maria's full blog at A Garden Maker's Notes

5 thoughts on “Groundhog Day

  1. I’ve always loved the movie ‘Groundhog Day’. And you make such a good point about having the time to make changes. We all try and wriggle out of doing things by saying “we don’t have the time”. But we can choose to if we really want to.
    But I wish I had your Zen attitude to living with marauding critters in my garden. Possums will pick on a plant that’s been there for years, unmolested, and start to eat the foliage every night until the shrub, or even mature tree, dies. It’s a lottery when it will happen & which plant they’ll go for. And now I’ve gone from bush turkeys digging up my yard to rabbits eating everything grassy! Ommmmm…. Ommmmmm…. I can get through this…….

    • Maria von Brincken on said:

      Catherine thankyou for adding all the additional photographs! Appreciate how much they add!

      Struggling with animals killing favorite plants is heartbreak that I’ve known. But I made a decision some time ago not to hold anger and look for ways not to create it–accepting animals and many humans do what they do helps. But that doesn’t mean I like it! So I try either to outsmart them or change my garden vision. What else is there?

  2. I must try to watch that movie again. I think when I saw it years ago with our kids, I missed the secondary message and just latched on to the saying that has been well worn in our household and others, whenever we want to convey we are doing the “same old same old”.

    Life has thrown some interesting habit-changing circumstances my way this year, so certainly making some different choices – both voluntarily and by imposition. Makes for interesting times.

    • Maria von Brincken on said:

      Glad you’ll get to see it again and ponder its message. I had a bad chest cold that day which is why I ended up watching it alone. I think in the party atmosphere mostly half watched! I’m glad I turned the TV on and watched again with a renewed perspective!

  3. Peter Goslett on said:

    Your comment that an early Spring was predicted is questionable. There are four groundhogs in our area [New York City]; two of them predicted an early Spring and two predicted six more weeks of winter. That brings up the question: How would Winter finish early, anyway?

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