The two words hail from the Latin hībernātus and the past participle hībernāre meaning to spend the winter. Both forms share a relationship with hiems, meaning winter, and that word bears a resemblance to the Greek chiá¹“n meaning snow, cheimá¹“n also meaning winter and the Sanskrit hima meaning cold, frost or snow. Believe it or not, there is a summer equivalent to hibernation, and we call it aestivation or aestivating.
Bears exhibit an elegant and impressive physiology in hibernation, and some species such as ground squirrels, marmots, prairie dogs, dormice, hamsters, lemurs and hedgehogs also den up when temperatures fall, sleeping quietly until temperatures rise and food becomes available again. Northern frogs, toads, snakes and turtles are also masters of the art of hibernation.
For humans on the other hand, hibernation is something different - withdrawing into an awakened seclusion or retirement from the world beyond one's windows, occasionally traveling to warmer climes to escape inclement weather. For some of us, the accumulation of books, libations, potions and music is our hibernating thing, the surrounding of one's chilly winter self with all that is warm, embracing and redolent of comfort. (A favorite deep red shawl comes to mind here.) We draw our draperies closed, at least some of the time, cocooning ourselves within and enfolded in all that we love best.
In my own case, hibernation also means wandering from window to window in the highland farmhouses of friends with camera in hand and capturing the falling sun through ice crystals and frost on the old panes - every single vista is a wonder and no two scenes are ever the same. It's a personal meditative process holding out tantalizing hints of wild wisdoms hoary and elusive somewhere out there in the white beyond the glass. Cold, ice, snow and the paucity of light notwithstanding, it's all good, and really, springtime is not that far off when one thinks about such things.
December 28, 2012
resting easy in friday rambles