On Friday, a bunch of bearded white men in top hats and an overgrown squirrel sentenced me to six more weeks of winter. Personally, I think this winter has gone on long enough already. I’m ready for a change of scenery and temperature, and frankly, I’m ready to replace the marmot who has an affinity for seeing its shadow with a marsupial. Let’s forget what the groundhog says. Let’s ask the wombat what he thinks. After all, he’s living in a summer paradise right now. He wouldn’t be cold and surly enough to punish us with another month of gloom. Why are we asking the Ebenezer Scrooge of ugly furball animals when we could be asking his jolly Australian nephew Fred?
Can’t you just see him? Good ol’ Freddy Wombat, the chubby creature Down Under. He’s wearing palm tree-print swimming trunks, sipping on pina coladas and popping corn nuts in his mouth that he keeps safely stored in his pouch. He’s living the good life in his seemingly never-ending summer. Sure, someday he may go underground, but those days are far off. After all, it’s the sunny days of February we’re in! Instead of dreary Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, we send an American representative to the Australian Sunshine Coast to tap the slightly inebriated marsupial on his coarse-furred shoulder and ask whether he thinks we Americans will be blessed with an early spring or stuck in our winter woes. Instead of looking for a shadow — which he would always see because, duh, it’s all sun there — Freddy Wombat determines our American fate by the utter radicalness of the next wave to wash up on the beach. But Freddy has been spending the past few months having to do little else than bite down on his towel and pull it up further onto the beach when the tide comes in. He could not be jollier — unlike fuddy-duddy Phil — so every wave he sees is of the utmost radicalness. Everything is beautiful. Freddy Wombat would turn to our oddly dressed American ambassador and say, “I reckon that’s a right-o wave, mate. America gets an early spring. Now take off that top hat and have a swimmers.” Or, he would say that if he weren’t so drunk.
All I’m saying is that perhaps we’re asking the wrong species. I’d be pretty sour if I were a groundhog, too. My name alone would give me a complex, and being forcibly removed from my frozen hollows in Pennsylvania to be treated as a furry tarot card wouldn’t exactly make me inclined to harness my chakra energy. I’d be likelier to bite one of those white-gloved fingers than to emanate light and positivity and goodwill toward men — especially because men would have just interrupted my frozen slumber.
The only person I know who is happy about this extended winter is the barista in my local coffee shop. I’ve been spending a lot of time there lately, as have many others. We find plenty of seating, plenty of heat from the fireplace and plenty of hot coffee to keep us carrying on through the weary winter. Business has been booming. His typically amenable manner was nearly bubbling over on Friday morning. I, on the other hand, felt agitated.
My longing for a Freddy Wombat in my life has been growing all season. Despite my frozen toes, my memories have been hot with the remembered scents and tastes I experienced during my year backpacking the bush. And the more time I’ve spent in coffeehouses to stay warm the more I have longed for the flavors of my past.
The bulk of the year I lived in Australia, I was based in this little hippie community. We were in the rainforest but only 20 minutes from the beach. Everything about this community was aligned, from the constellation walks to the yoga treehouses to the coffee options. My favorite was a dandelion latte with local honey. I have spoken often of this dandelion deliciousness to my barista, and he nods kindly, as if it’s not weird at all.
On Friday, when we got the damning news from PA, I wanted nothing more than that latte of summertime. The coffee shop, of course, didn’t have it. But my barista did point out to me that he now has locally sourced honey to sweeten my coffee. It just might be enough to get me through six more weeks of winter.