To note this year’s Groundhog Day, Let’s quote what poet Frost did say, Sad to tell – worse luck! He used a synonym: woodchuck.
A Drumlin Woodchuck
By Robert Frost
One thing has a shelving bank,
Another a rotting plank,
To give it cozier skies
And make up for its lack of size.
My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.
With those in mind at my back
I can sit forth exposed to attack
As one who shrewdly pretends
That he and the world are friends.
All we who prefer to live
Have a little whistle we give,
And flash, at the least alarm
We dive down under the farm.
We allow some time for guile
And don’t come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.
And if after the hunt goes past
And the double-barreled blast
(Like war and pestilence
And the loss of common sense),
If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,
It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow.
Why quote this in full, even on Groundhog Day, on a blog devoted to Living on the Real World? Isn’t this taking us a bit off track?
Here’s why. Read some of the analysis of this poem on the web, and you’ll find more than one reference to the effect that Frost is really writing about his own emotional reticence, or his aversion to national politics, or some such. The poem very much captures a creature afraid of its own shadow.
Read the relevant Wikipedia piece, and you and I might decide the groundhog has good reason to be so risk-averse. We learn that in the wild, groundhogs can live up to six years, with 2-3 years being the average. They’re subject to predation by practically anything that moves…large hawks, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, bears, foxes, dogs and snakes.
Whew! Dangerous world out there…and that’s before the recreational hunting the poem describes.
In captivity…and protected from these threats… their life expectancy extends to 9-14 years or even longer. Punxsutawney Phil seems to have stumbled onto a pretty good gig.
Scientists in general, and climate scientists in particular, might be excused for following the Drumlin Woodchuck’s example. Lay low, have a couple of exits out of your burrow…obsess about that burrow…and you can lead a reasonably comfortable life. You can pretend that you and the world are friends. You can take occasion to think, to contemplate. And you can be there another day for your loved ones.
Or…stick your head up, particularly on a sunlit day where you can be readily noticed, or in a way that exposes you to the media glare (like all those scientists in yesterday’s post on both sides of the recent dust-up in the Wall Street Journal)…and risk having your head blown off.
The choice is yours.
But actually, there are choices that seem preferable to either of these alternatives. Working from the notion that fear and a predatory attitude are really two sides to the same coin, we can reject both, and conduct our science and proclaim it in the spirit advocated by Abraham Lincoln: “…With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations…”
Lincoln was clearly talking about climate scientists and their kith and kin in the year 2012.
So today, and each day, let’s you and I remember that we’re decidedly not groundhogs. Let’s remember we’re meant to have a spirit not of timidity, but of power, and love, and self-control. That beloved English king was not called Richard the Groundhog-hearted. Let’s not pretend to be friends with the world, let’s dare to be genuine.
Shadow? What shadow?
 Taken from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.