Out of the shadows

Groundhog Day arrived last week, cold but sunny enough, according to legend, to scare the timid rodent back into hibernation at the sight of its own shadow. Six more weeks of winter? Today’s record-breaking 72 degrees belied that prediction. When we discuss this seasonal myth in science class, I ask the kids to think of alternatives that they believe would be more realistic for groundhog behavior in early February. “Don’t come out in the first place. Keep sleeping!” and “Take a sun bath to warm up” are the top choices.

On some of the colder late afternoons, when kids are working in their forts in the pine woods, I personally opt for that second choice. The angle of sunlight beaming through gaps in the trees creates surprising warmth.  “So this is how a solar panel feels,” commented one child who joined me. “Or maybe a vulture?” I suggest.

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Crocus and daffodil leaves are already finding their way up out of the shadows, drawn by the increasing light and warmth. The first few snowdrop flowers dangle from green stems. Pull back the leaf litter, and peony buds show a startling pink. Eranthis hyemalis has begun to spread its invasive yellow carpet, with flowers open for business whenever the first pollinators show up.

The light filling the science building’s greenhouse chases the shadows away earlier and lingers a bit longer every day. We’ll be starting seeds for our garden this week, even as the forecast once again calls for snow. Winter may not be officially over yet, but the light itself issues an imperative: grow!