February 28th, 2011
Location 43 degrees N, 73 degrees W
Thoreau’s Journal, January 30, P.M.
The winter, cold and bound out as it is,
is thrown to us like a bone to a famishing dog,
and we are expected to get the marrow out of it. …
Some desert the field and go into winter quarters in the city.
They attend the oratorios,
while the only music that we countrymen hear
is the squeaking of the snow under our boots.
Well, it has finally hit, even though I thought I might be immune to this special event of every winter season.
Cabin Fever is here!
It sneaks up on you unawares. A first symptom is impatience, usually while performing a small task. Or you utter a snide remark to a good friend. You peruse seed catalogs with a loud sigh at the turn of every page. You remember looking up in the Fall, at the geese flying south – and wish you had gone with them.
In the acute phase, you are snarling at your loved ones, whose only mistake was to share the same residence with you.
(at the food store with "Saint Mom")
Yes, that’s just some of the wonderfulness we in the north country call Cabin Fever. It’s an ailment that seems limited to those of us in temperate climates. Oh, sure, that snow was pretty back in December, when it was pure and white and fluffy. But now ...
(yes, there IS a car in that driveway...)
The result is an overwhelming urge to be done with winter, and to move on to another season. And lots of acting-out.
Sure, modern scientists have found numerous causes, and so-called cures, and given it new and cute names (e.g., S.A.D.),
(but I’ll bet most of those scientists live in California, or other season-less place. Hmmph.)
Even those of us who LOVE winter, and get out in the snow as much as possible, can be infected. True, getting outdoors in the pale winter sunlight can be an effective vaccine, but even a mild version of Mal de Cabane can turn you into a truly unpleasant version of yourself.
And for anyone trying to live mindfully, and to stay in the present moment, it’s another temptation to overcome. Sooner or later, your thoughts will drift to visions of frogs and flowers, of not going to bed with wool socks on your feet, of other times, anytime but “Now.”
Some folks dream of other places, and then proceed to go to some tropical place for a week. (I can’t tell you if that helps, having never done it. Hmmph.)
Do people in California spend their Februaries wishing for something to change, and sighing about how boring it is to have 75 degrees and sunshine every single day ?
Some of us give in to primordial urges,
urges that go back to the days when humans had to almost hibernate to get through the winter.
We slack off, we make caveman choices.
I go window-shopping at the Beverage Stores.
(Enlarge photo to see a vision of my car filled to the brim !)
Most of us make it through OK. If you’ve grown up with it, you know it’s just a matter of riding it out. Nature does provide its own cure.
Many cultures have come up with their own attempts to distract us from the Fever.
Think of Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Contra Dances, and something I just saw the other day:
(p.s.- not a Mets fan --Go Red Sox!)
You probably have some distractions of your own – I’d love to hear of them !
My personal favorite is the extraordinary timing of Town Meeting Day.
This is New England’s great expression of true democracy. (Imagine the ancient Roman senators wearing wool plaid instead of togas.)
It comes at a time when Cabin Fever is at its peak.
(Norman's Rockwell's Freedom of Speech, 1941 - from the Four Freedoms )
And you can read a good article about modern-day Town Meeting here.)
From out of their warm caves, here come all the grumps to assemble in one place, for a day of harangues and curmudgeonly oratory.
How fitting that the list of discussion topics which is posted in advance is called a Warning.
It’s a blend of catharsis and exorcism -- great entertainment, by the way! – and, somehow, town business does get done.
And at the pot luck dinners afterward, where the food has been cooked with love, everyone is chummy again.
(Journal entry, continued:)
But the winter was not given to us for no purpose.
We must thaw its cold with our genialness.
We are tasked to find out and appropriate all the nutriment it yields.
If it is a cold and hard season,
its fruit, no doubt, is the more concentrated and nutty.
It took the cold and bleakness of November to ripen the walnut,
but the human brain is the kernel which the winter itself matures.
Not till then does its shell come off.
The seasons were not made in vain.
Because the fruits of the earth are already ripe,
we are not to suppose that there is no fruit left
for winter to ripen.
It is for man the seasons and all their fruits exist.
The winter was made to concentrate and harden
and mature the kernel of his brain,
to give tone and firmness and consistency to his thought.
Then is the great harvest of the year,
the harvest of thought.
9 months ago