Early tomorrow morning, we’re expecting to be snowed or iced in throughout North Carolina. Part of me anticipates this with gladness, looking for something to slow me down; seems like there’s no better place to rest than underneath a blanket of snow. Over the past weeks since the flurry of holidays has ended, I feel a pull toward hibernation– like plants and animals who need that dormant state in their life cycle. While staying indoors and being inactive may feel too much like the pandemic lockdown, it’s also the natural rhythm of the seasons.
Pondering these thoughts about hibernation, I found an article through the Internet that has a nice description of how to yield to this pull. Katherine May published in the Guardian, “Human Hibernation: the restoring effects of hiding any in winter.” While she notes all the responsibilities that keep us from truly being able to slow down completely, she gets at ways to follow this rhythm and make the most of this season.
Katherine visits Wildwood Trust in Canterbury and observes hibernating dormice– one of the three mammals in the UK that hibernate. She says, “To get through this long period without food, a dormouse will slow down its metabolism to the extent that it consumes almost no energy at all, waking briefly every 10 days to keep its organs in working order. We humans, having a few more worldly commitments and physical limitations than your average dormouse, are unable to do the same, but we can allow winter to modify the rhythms of our lives.”
I can identify with this need to modify my rhythm now that we’ve reached mid-January. We go at such a hectic pace, and that only seems to speed up from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. No wonder we can be so tired trudging through the winter cold.
Sometimes we fight this natural desire to slow down, either because we can’t or we don’t know how. Years ago when we had days of snow and our school was closed, I remember how much I just wanted to sink into a book and enjoy the beauty of the snow outside my window. But at that time, we were going through home improvements to prepare our house for the spring market; there was a long list of things that had to be done. How could I spend that ‘found time’ resting when I could be getting a lot done since I didn’t have to be at my job as a school nurse?
For parents of small children, it’s a special time of making memories in the snow. My grandson is so excited that he may get to build a snowman if we have the predicted snowfall. No matter what responsibilities may be pressing in on my son and daughter-in-law, they will make being with their two sons the priority. Memories of snow days when we’re children stay with us.
I remember how special those days were when I was a child growing up on a farm in the Piedmont of North Carolina. My younger sister and I would trudge through the snow with our Collie-mix dog, Ruff. He loved to bite at the falling flakes and twirl around. The white fields felt magical, those hundred acres appearing like a place in the movies instead of the ones we knew with rows of tobacco, stalks of corn, and stubbled grain fields long harvested.
After taking a walk, we’d return home and dry our damp coats on the family room oil heater. Mama gave us large pots to take outside and fill with clean snow we’d collect off the pump house. Then she’d turn our harvest of the fallen white stuff into sweet snow cream– like that same cold delight we had in summer’s with homemade ice cream.
Our farmland was too flat for sledding, but later I enjoyed that with my own sons when they were in middle school. Our neighbor had a surf board that they used to slide down the long hilly road that ran through our development. What a fun day it was, followed by soup, sandwiches, and homemade cookies.
Now, with my sons all grown up, I can turn to other ways to enjoy snow days. I like how Katherine May describes this:
“Everything about me changes in winter – and I let it happen. Winter is a time to enjoy the pleasures of solitude, to dream and contemplate. It opens up a space in which I can mass my energies, to restore and repair. In winter, I can spend hours in silent pursuit of a half-understood concept, or a detail of history.”
I’ve prepared for the coming storm, going out yesterday and today for grocery shopping and picking up other essentials. Now, it’s time to just be in the moment and enjoy whatever comes our way.
And while we do that, I borrow Mays’ words for our parting:
“Winter has patience. There is nowhere else to be, after all.”