Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil, a handsome groundhog with a long aristocratic nose, scuttled backward into his hole when he felt the ground tremble with Black Wolf’s approach.

“Wait a minute, Phil,” howled the sleek Black Wolf who had been tracking the large rodent for weeks. Black Wolf’s fur coat shone in the moonlight, illuminating the stars and moon back to themselves.

Phil backed further down into his hole, leaving one eye on Black Wolf, or as he called him, BW. “My intuition says not to trust you any farther than I can spit, and that’s 2 feet.”

In a philosophical mood, having just eaten a rabbit, BW said, “You, my dear friend Phil, must aspire to and commit to the great virtue of releasing your fears so that you might ascend to the next spiritual.”

“Well, BW, I do better than you. Humans turn to me, to help them tell time. With all my especially honed powers of the seasons, I inform the humans when spring has truly arrived.”

“I admit you have amazing powers of focus on time and the seasons. But as a visionary, I can imagine a sea shell balanced on top of a mountain lake. Therefore, I can decide what is, in fact and in metaphor, true,” said BW with a lofty toss of his head.

“Well, you can’t dig holes like I can, with great earthmoving force” Phil said as he dug his toenails into the soil. “You see, I bring harmony to the underworld, aerating the soil for all the millions of bugs and microbes who transform dirt into the magic to grow plants, that feed your prey and feed you, mister smarty.”

BW looked up and at the skinny moon hanging upside down in the sky like a smile. He lifted his nose and howled a lonely sound, “We have double harmony together. I work with the moon and her seasons of tide and light.”

“Okay, okay, we both have our strengths,” said Phil, who, throughout this conversation had slowly relaxed and inched out of his hole to talk to BW. But nothing escaped BW’s sharp predator nose and eyes. Before Phil could register what had happened, BW had pounced on him and held his neck between his jaws.

“Help,” Phil screeched through a closing throat. “Stop that!” Phil lashed out a sharp digging claw and raked BW’s eye and cheek, opening a large gash.

BW, partially blinded, jumped back, “Hey, I was only kidding.”

“Tell that to Darwin, you hunter, you” Phil said, scurrying back into his hole.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, nature and nurture and all that. But I’m not only a predator. I can dream of world peace, and I can even help you, little Phil.”

“How can you help me?” Phil asked stretching out the crick in his neck where BW had held it in his grasp.

BW looked up at the moon again. “I can decide to be determined and to be wise, to make it my destiny to explore the unknown, the part of me who is not a predator.”

Phil rubbed his sore neck. “In your dreams,” he said. “You meat-eaters are all alike. You will never have the refined sensibilities and impeccability of us herbivores. We understand the grief at the essence of all those who are prey – us. We know this in the deep silence of our being. We grieve every day for our loved ones you have eaten.”

“But I am innocent too,” cried BW. “I have no choice about hunting and eating. I have to go with the flow and mystery of the great force that made me eat meat and made me cull out the weak and old animals that are the easiest to catch, helping your friend Darwin along.”

“Well, you don’t have to do that all the time. My grandmother was old and weak, but I still didn’t want you to eat her.  So, give us a break some of the time. Hone your skills and use your creativity; try a veggie meal today, and then again tomorrow. Use your Sacred Witness and your creativity to look around you and gather up protein-rich plants. I’ll give you some recipes so you can share them with your family.”

“Look, when I eat another animal, before the first chomp, I center myself and pray for the animal, making it an offering to the Great Spirit that made me a meat-eater.  But I understand it’s all a matter of balance. In the interest of our enduring friendship, I’ll eat a veggie meal each day too.”

Phil gulped, “We have a friendship? What does that mean exactly? That you won’t eat me?”

“Not until you are so old or sick that you give me permission to help you out with my especially quick neck snap, to help you go to the other world easily.”

Phil rubbed his neck, “And before your quick neck snap will you center yourself and pray for me and tell me a joke the second before you do it? I want to die laughing.”

“Sure,” BW said. “I know some good groundhog jokes.”

“Nothing demeaning,” said Phil. “I have my pride.” Phil thought for a moment longer. “And you’re sure you won’t eat me willy-nilly someday because you forgot your promise?”

“I’ll do even better than that. I promise to eat no groundhogs at all until one of them asks me to help them out that way. Now, Phil, about those groundhog jokes, have you heard the one about how many groundhogs it takes to screw in a light bulb?”

“You’ve got to do better than that, Black Wolf. Tell me another one,” Phil said as he relaxed his long furry body and scooted out of his hole a little, the better to hear the next joke.

Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.