Groundhogs, badgers, Christopher Lee and Candlemas

It’s funny how cultural connections are made and often begun in the most unlikely ways. For example, last night, we picked a televisual feast from Roku and as is usual for us, it was a “cult” horror movie called “City of the Dead,” starring Christopher Lee as the lead undead guy. The movie was set in a rural Massachusetts town with a perma-fog and equally permanent darkness, populated by a band of survivors of 17th century witch hunts.

In the movie, Feb. 2, which is also Candlemas, is an important day of sacrifice for these witches being the day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. (Not to mention that it was their way to irritate the local time-wearied clergyman).

In Christianity, Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Pre-Christian Celts celebrated the day as Imbolc, a day linked to the gestation of ewes and lambing.

Hmmm. We wondered. Was there a link between Candlemas and Groundhog Day? Well, gosh, there is. From Projectbritain.com is this rhyme:
“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.”

The site also notes this German Candlemas tradition, which has been adapted in the U.S. with a groundhog subbing for the badger:
“The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day,
and, if he finds snow, walks abroad;
but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.”

Which brings us to a more local tradition — Blossom, Perry County’s prognosticatin’ groundhog. Caretaker Tamara tells us this afternoon that “Blossom did not see her shadow today. She didn’t even peek outside!” (Search our blog for “Blossom,” and you’ll see more about our little local garden-thievin’ celebrity).

The local weather was cloud and rain, and if the Candlemas rhyme is followed, agrees with Perry County Blossom that spring is en route.

We’re putting our money on our local folkways predictions no matter what that Pennsylvania whistlepig says.

http://www.stormfax.com/ghogday.htm

Sometimes, it pays to look back

Advent is a time of looking forward — preparing one’s self for the feast of Christmas. However, after last night’s vigil Mass for the final Sunday of Advent, looking back paid off too.

For almost 24 hours, nature had soaked the state in a deluge that saw nearly 8 inches of rain fall in parts of the Arkansas Delta. The same system also spawned tornadoes in other parts of the state. When the heavy rain finally stopped, those leaving church were welcomed by a fiery orange sunset. En route to the parking lot,  paused on the steps to take a shot or two of the sunset with my iPhone (bottom photo). But something made me look back. And there over the church, the sky glowed with a luminous double rainbow.

palce
The iPhone’s ‘pano’ setting sure  came in handy in trying to capture such a wide view. 
Fiery sunset
Fiery sunset with the old bell tower in silhouette. 

Great balls of … water?

(Apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis, of course.) Winter likes to make water do interesting things: create stalactites, delicate snowflakes and spheres of ice. Here, a couple of samples of what water can do.

(Catching that little drop of water falling from an icicle took many, many frames.)

sleet balls
CRYSTAL BALLS — Tiny spheres of sleet that accompanied a winter storm.
Sphere of water falls from a bank of icicles.
THE BIG DRIP — Sphere of water falls from a bank of icicles.

Posts from winters past:

 

Stormy Saturday

Arkansas and the rest of the mid-South have gotten a belly full of fierce weather in the last two weeks.

Our prayers are with the families in Oklahoma and western Arkansas who lost loved ones in the wave of tornadoes and flooding.

Stormy sky
BOILING CLOUDS — A sign another round of storms wasn’t far off.
Three strikes of lighttning
THREE STRIKES — Composite of three frames showing three lightning strikes within one second. The trees in the foreground are about 50 feet from the house.

Zzzzzap! Pow!

Cold air from the north and west met up with our 80-degree spring day, producing powerful storms. Here’s what we saw this evening.

Blossom, Punxsutawney Phil and persimmon prognostication

A lot of America appears to be suffering from winter fatigue, cabin fever or related disorders that result from a prolonged battle against cold, snow, snirt, ice, power outages and indignant derriere landings thanks to any number of slick frozen water combinations.

This headline from a CBS story today says it all: The calendar may say spring, but the forecast says snow.

The winter weariness seems to have reached serious proportions in Butler County, Ohio, where there’s an indictment with Punxsutawney Phil’s name on it:

3-24-Indictment
Where’s Perry Mason when you need him?

When it comes to whistlepig prognosticators, our money is on Perry County Blossom, who this year predicted six more weeks of winter. Blossom spokescouple Jack and Tamara also report that Blossom has had a litter.  We hope to have a new photo or two of Blossom as spring progresses and she can leave her den.

And one more note about folkways forecasting. It seems the persimmon seeds were right this year. The wet winter has been welcome in the half of Arkansas still in drought.

Soft blossom morning

Spring is having a hard time awakening from his slumber, and winter keeps tip-toeing back. Snow and ice returned to Arkansas’ northern counties this past week, and here in the Ouachitas, fog swallowed the ridge tops yesterday. Today, high winds scattered the mist and are busy rearranging the deck furnishings.

Weekly photo challenge: Surprise

Another better-late-than-never catch-up post. This time, it’s for the Dec. 21 WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise. 

Little Rock hadn’t seen a white Christmas since 1926 and boy, was Mother Nature saving up. Arkansas received up to 15 inches of  heavy and wet snow. Here in our corner of the Ouachita Mountains, the snow pressed 152 trees onto the quarter-mile road to our neighborhood. Surprise! (More about this in a future post.)

The long quarter mile.
These bent and broken pines were just the tip of the iceberg. There were more than 100 broken trees further up the hill.

Other surprises:

Persimmon predictions

Long before computer models for forecasting the winter ahead, there were simpler, folksier tools: persimmon seeds, woolly bear caterpillars and squirrels.  READ MORE … 

PERSIMMON PREDICTION — Folk wisdom says the shape that appears inside a persimmon seed will be an indicator of the winter to come.  A spoon shape (top) means a wet winter. A fork (middle)  means light powdery snow. A knife (bottom) can mean icy, cutting winds or splitting the difference between the spoon and fork predictions, depending on what you believe.  The verdict of these seeds, opened Nov. 15, 2012,  is divided. However,a consensus of cut seed reports from other parts of Arkansas seem to be leaning toward a wet winter.  (U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo)

Foggy day at Mount St. Helens-UPDATE

Checked in to the volcano cam on Jan. 15 and voila! The mountain reappeared!

 

Mount St. Helens
Look ma! No clouds!

 

 

 

We were fortunate enough to visit Mount St. Helens in 1998, but haven’t made it back since then.  Volcano fans can enjoy a virtual visit, thanks to the National Park Service webcams. However, even web technology has its limits. Moisture won the day today.

Webcam stills of Mount St. Helens
Volcano? What volcano?