What Does a Groundhog Know

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On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow, saw his shadow, and high-tailed it back indoors. According to legend, this means that we will have six more weeks of the coldest winter that I can remember.

I don’t buy it. A little rodent in Pennsylvania can’t predict my weather all the way down here in Middle Tennessee. However, I will let you in on my secret. I can tell you when spring is on the way.

I have a tree in my yard that tells me when winter is coming to a close. This tree is a sawtooth oak, according to my husband, and it is an unusual kind of tree. My sawtooth oak is a marcescent tree, meaning that it doesn’t lose its leaves in the fall. All winter long, my son’s climbing tree is adorned with a bunch of dry, brown leaves, remnants of last summer’s growth. It looks dead and dull against the gray sky, and the leaves rattle in the cold winter wind.

When I’m longing for signs of spring, I never pay attention to the blooms of my peach trees; they are notorious for jumping the gun. Neither do I watch for cherry blossoms, for those trees are likewise easily deceived by a few warm days.

One day, however, when spring is near, my sawtooth oak tree will release its tattered leaves in preparation for spring’s new growth. My tree always knows when spring is coming. Its roots go deep into the earth where spring’s stirrings are true. The leaves will break free into the warm breeze to make way for the fresh growth of a new season.

That’s how I’ll know when spring is on the way. When I look out my kitchen window, and see the bare branches of my oak tree, I will know for sure that cold weather is on its way out.

My oak tree knows way more than Punxsutawney Phil, and it never lies.