Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The groundhog’s shadow knows.
Are we turning the corner on winter? Are we on the verge of another glorious New Mexico spring? Will it be snowing cottonwood blossoms already? These questions and more will be put to a singular groundhog in Pennsylvania tomorrow, the midpoint of winter calendar-wise.

But guess what? It’s a groundhog. A groundhog is like a badger. And to paraphrase Alfonso Bedoya in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badgers.” Why? Because New Mexico has its own quadrupedal prognosticator: Rio Grande Ralph.

Fact is, 35 states lay claim to some kind of fortune-telling critter that runs the gamut from Oklahoma’s grizzly bear, Alabama’s possum, Washington’s bullfrog, to Idaho’s (now stuffed) prairie dog. As for Prairie Dog Ralph, it seems the thickness of his fur is an indicator of what kind of winter we’ve been having.

Otherwise, all will be revealed tomorrow at Gobbler’s Knob when the latest incarnation of Punxsutawney Phil imparts his annual prophecy for the next month-and-a-half weatherwise.

Furthermore, I dare say the internet will be clogged up by everybody steaming Groundhog Day, the comedy with Bill Murray, where he has to live hundreds – maybe thousands – of Groundhog Days in a row before he learns to be a decent human being.
A better way to observe the midpoint of winter is this Saturday at the 28th Annual Community Arts Party, where kids can release their creative juices and do art at Socorro’s Finley Gym. Picasso once said every child is an artist, but here’s a secret: PAS’s “art for art’s sake” party is all-ages. This leads me to think maybe everyone – somewhere deep down, beneath their reasoning and logic and problem-solving, is an artist. In one form or another.

And you don’t have to wear a beret, clench the handle of a brush in your teeth or hobnob at fancy parties discussing the relevance of Salinger or Pirandello smoking a French cigarette.

What I mean is that art – creativity in general – is personal stuff. I mean, people secretly write poetry to express a feeling, tell funny stories to make people laugh, impulsively doodle while on the phone, make a lamp with wood, take a snapshot of a sunset, do needlepoint or crochet something, make up a song, invent a new recipe; when you get down to it, there is a uniquely human urge to create something. Everyone, I suspect, has at least one friend who does something artistic. And more often than not, that person does it for the sheer pleasure of creating something that didn’t exist before. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Every artist was first an amateur.”
Full disclosure: Art was all around me growing up. Two of my sisters were artists, my younger brother and sister were both in the high school band, and my older brother played bongos. Me? I was usually hanging out in the Dairy Queen parking lot, sitting on a car hood, talking about cars, girls, and baseball. Three things I never was good at.

Wait, back up. My thing was taking pictures.

My first camera, I think, was a Kodak Brownie where you had to spool the film by hand into the back of it carefully, all in the dark. Tactile and hands-on. The now all-but-extinct 35mm cameras were like that, too, and took much better pictures, although as much as I’d tried, I never understood apertures, f-stops, or light meters. But I do miss collecting those little 35mm film canisters that you could reuse to keep aspirins in.

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever. If you see something that catches your eye, you can whip out your cell phone and instantly see if it looks right. There’s no having to take a roll of film down to have the drug store develop it and then wait to get your prints back, like in the olden days, say, the 1990s. That is unless you had a Polaroid camera.

Those first instant cameras were a hoot in their time. Snap a picture, wait a few moments, open the back and peel off the photo. And a few moments later, voila, the image slowly fades in. Then, you had to wipe it down with some chemical goop and flap it in the air to help it dry.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the new digitals, but in a way, I miss those old Polaroids. Again, tactile, very hands-on.

All in all, we sure have come a long way from when Paul Simon sang about his Nikon camera and his ballyhooed Kodachrome film. When that song comes on the radio, I’m wondering if kids are asking their parents, “What does Kodachrome mean?”