On this blog page, author Mary C. Woolling posts an ongoing series of her essays showcasing the positives of life.

New essays are added often. You are cordially invited to become a regular reader. Also, please feel free to share this site with your family and friends via the “Tell a Friend” link, located in the right-hand column below.

Comments on Mary's essays are most welcome. Simply click on the “Post Comments” link appearing at the end of each essay, and share your thoughts.

If you'd like to contact Mary, you may do so at mary@herestolife.us

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Waiting Time

“Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep desired, long-awaited spring.”

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Unicorn and other Poems (1956)

It’s February, the waiting time of the year–the beginning of the transition from winter to spring. We may be longing for the first indications of Nature’s awakening beauty — pink crocuses, purple hyacinths and yellow daffodils — but instead, today, as we step out the door, we’re greeted by piercing blasts of bitter cold, frosty air and sub-freezing temperatures. Except for the green of the firs and the spruces, we find little sign of life anywhere. Graceful beeches hold on to a few withered leaves from last season, but most of the other trees are stark and bare—lonely black silhouettes against a gray winter sky.

There’s a stillness all around. No squirrels or chipmunks dashing about, as they are safely ensconced in their cozy nests hidden in trunks of trees. Backyard birdhouses stand empty and forlorn with no sign of the birds nor sound of their cheerful songs. No evidence of raccoons having raided our trash cans. They, too, have left the scene for snug, warm havens.

All of nature appears to be fast asleep, but legend tells us one slumbering animal will awaken from hibernation today, February 2, to observe the state of the weather. Based on this animal’s action and its implied prognostication, a prediction of the advent of spring is made. Every year, many individuals hope this will be the news they’ve been eagerly waiting for–that they can leave the tired, old winter behind and move on into spring. This furry little weather predictor is none other than the groundhog. February 2 is, of course, Groundhog Day, the annual holiday honoring him.

In ancient times, it was believed that, on February 2 (Candlemas Day), if the weather was sunny and bright, a cold harsh winter would continue for another six weeks. However, if it were cloudy and rainy, an early spring was on the way. Medieval folk thought that various hibernating animals, such as the badger, bear and hedgehog, would come out from their warm underground burrows at this time of year to assess the state of the weather and make predictions.

In Germany, a legend developed that if the hedgehog saw the sun, it became frightened by its own shadow and would crawl back to its hole to sleep for another six weeks. This indicated more bad weather to come and, as a result, poorer crops that year. If the skies were overcast, there would be no shadow to scare the animal, so it would remain above ground. This was interpreted as meaning cold weather was soon to end and warmer days to appear.

The legend of the hedgehog was brought to America by the German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Dutch). Many of these early settlers became farmers who planted their crops according to this superstition. Since there were no hedgehogs in America, the farmers transferred the idea to the American groundhog, an animal similar to the German hedgehog. The groundhog is approximately 15-18 inches long, with bushy tail, short legs, and coarse fur, black and gray above and chestnut-red below.

Through the years, Groundhog Day has become a part of Americana. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, is home to the groundhog tradition and recognized as the “Groundhog Capitol of the World.” Since 1887, Punxsutawney has held annual observances of Groundhog Day. At sunrise, thousands of onlookers from all over the world gather at Gobbler’s Knob to watch “Punxsutawney Phil,” the nation’s official groundhog, emerge from his warm winter den. Phil gives his prediction for the length of the remaining part of winter supposedly in “Groundhogese” to his keeper, who then relays the forecast to the waiting crowd. In most cases, Phil does see his shadow and returns to his den to wait six more weeks for spring.

Truth be told, regardless of Punx’y Phil’s message of an early or late spring, or our own longing for a quick end to the winter, spring invariably and predictably arrives six weeks from now–around March 21. Nature moves inexorably, according to its own timetable.

Our lives also follow a timetable. As the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

We may grow tired of the situations in which we find ourselves and wish we could move ahead to the next new period without delay. However, it’s good to keep in mind that we can’t rush the seasons of our lives anymore than we can rush the appearance of the flowers on the earth.

May we know the peace of mind that comes from remembering that when the time is right, the next season begins. Be patient and wait. Everything in its time.

Here’s to Life!

Monday, January 01, 2024

The Gift of Time

This moment is the peak of time.
On it we stand and we can see
The future and the past stretch out,
Two roads to one eternity.

~ Rebecca McCann (American poet, creator of The Cheerful Cherub)

Happy New Year!

For many of us, yesterday, December 31, was a time to look back and review the past year. We tallied up our lists of both missions accomplished and projects unfinished. We recalled words and deeds now over and done; hours touched by sadness and disappointment as well as moments set apart by gladness and satisfaction. Though some of our dreams were not realized over the course of the past 12 months, many other goals were achieved. We thought of the actions of which we are proud. We also focused on things that we wish we had done as well as things that we wish we could have done better, had we only had the time; but, last night, New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, 2023 was over. The final accounting and permanent record of the year, with its pluses and minuses, now stood for all of time.

The good news is that today, January 1, 2024, we have been blessed with another full year of time — 365 unblemished days, each day a bountiful, 24-hours-long, and all at our disposal.

So, there is still time to finish old projects and time to begin new efforts. Time to start over and time to do better. Time to be silent and time to speak up. Time to notice and time to appreciate.

There’s even still time to take time to listen, to apologize, to forgive, to love.

There is still time to pray, to aspire, to plan, to achieve.

On this first day of the New Year, as Rebecca McCann pointed out in her words above, we stand at the precise intersection of our past and our future. Both roads are clearly visible to us. From this vantage point, we can look back, with mixed reviews and longing, to the old, worn trail we have been following, but we can also look forward with hope and expectation to the bright, uncharted path that has opened before us.

Take heart, my friends! All things are still possible, thanks to God’s renewed gift of time.

What will you do with your gift of time?

Friday, December 15, 2023

The Season’s Reason

In the 1947 movie The Bishop’s Wife, actor David Niven, playing the part of a minister, delivers a sermon to his congregation on Christmas Eve. The message is as timely today as it was back then – 70 years ago.

Tonight, I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a Child’s cry. A blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts.

We haven’t forgotten that night down through the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts. But, especially, with gifts. We buy them and wrap them and put them under the tree. I give you a book; you give me a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Harry could do with a new pipe. Oh, we forget no one – adult or child. All the stockings are filled.

All that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. A stocking for the Child born in a manger. It’s His birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that!

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most, and then, let each put in his share – warm hearts, loving kindness, and an outstretched hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.

Here’s to the Reason for the Season, Dear Readers! Jesus Christ, our Savior, is born!

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