How to Stay Sane in Winter When You Live Far from the Equator

Is it summer yet?…

Move is the correct answer, preferably before winter insanity becomes part of your life cycle which you believe is normal.

The second option is travel. I once considered Australia to be my go to winter destination. Then I read about thirty of Australia’s deadliest animals. Thirty? Many of those species are snakes and spiders. You could die on a walkabout.

The beach isn’t safe either. Listed was a stonefish that produces such mind blowing agony if stepped on that your body goes into shock and you die. There’s venomous jellyfish, octopuses, and cone shells. Death by collecting shells?

New Zealand has been on my bucket list after I saw photographs. Fiords, subtropical forests, coastlands to Mt. Cook, New Zealand rounds itself out with unique, non-venomous animal species.

Sea life includes penguins that don’t inflict poison. Dolphins won’t latch onto you and perform a death roll like Australian crocodiles. The flightless kiwi is really cute.

New Zealanders identify with the fauna of their land so much so they refer to themselves as Kiwis. Then J.R.R. Tolkien’s world came to life in New Zealand, Dunedin and Queenstown to Edoras and Hobbiton. I can pack my bags for $3,500.

Travel writers had expenses paid and income from their articles, but humor writers, who bring home paychecks from day jobs, travel to Punxsutawney, Pa because seasonal affective disorder brought on a secondary condition called insanity. If I was a sane thinker engaged in thinking, I would  never agree to cure winter blues by celebrating Groundhog Day with Punxsutawney Phil, a furry weather predictor.

This was the only option that,

  • Promised adventure away from home in February.
  • Carried a price tag of under $300.

Instead of heading south, I’ll be heading further north. If I was in the southern hemisphere traveling north would make sense because I’d be traveling closer to the equator, but I’m nuts.

The groundhog doesn’t sit behind a podium in town to dispense weather wisdom, we must trek to him. Instead of tramping the Kauri Coast in a swimsuit, I’ll don layers of thermal material to hike to Gobblers Knob to watch a critter predict early spring or six more weeks of winter with his shadow. That’s perverse.

Punxsutawney derives from a native word that means either town of sand flies or poison vine. The flora in Punxsutawney will be the same as home, dead. Punxsutawney will hold none of the magic of the dead marshes filmed at Kepler Mire, NZ with its fallen elves hidden in marshy waters. The best I can hope for is to step over a drunken person in a snow drift. No one stands in the snow to see a groundhog predict weather stone cold sober. I don’t plan to.

As for Punxsutawney’s fauna, the groundhog’s only similarity to the kiwi is that it’s also flightless. The groundhog is a rodent who digs holes. In the summertime, they eat your garden. I’d never declare affinity to this animal and call myself a groundhog, at minus fourteen degrees, cover hog, maybe.

“We’re heading north for Groundhog’s Day, why?”

“We’ve never done it before,” hubby said.

“Partied with a woodchuck? I’ve never partied in Wellington with Kiwis either. What’s the difference?”

“About $6,700.”

The number seemed high until I remembered hubby would probably have to go to New Zealand with me, the for better or worse clause.

Many of Phil’s brethren can be found along the roadside, not as forecasters, but as road kill. This attests to the intelligence of the North American species who predict our weather.

“How can we be certain the groundhog’s going to show?” I asked.

“The president of the Groundhog Club makes sure Phil shows.”

“The groundhog has a posse?”

The Inner Circle is a group of well dressed men (a woman has more sense than to clean rodent doodie) who cater to Phil’s needs and chauffer him to appearances. Phil has met governors, a president, and Oprah.

Phil single handedly repealed prohibition by threatening sixty more weeks of winter if he wasn’t allowed a drink, my hero. Phil takes a nip of Groundhog Punch at a summer picnic held in his honor. This secret recipe adds seven years to his life.

Punxsutawney Phil is a hundred-thirty year old geriatric groundhog? We’d be heading north to join a cult that worships a rodent. This was getting exciting.

February in Punxsutawney, was crazy. We’d fit right in.

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