Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Ramble - Hibernate

This week's word offering is rooted in the Latin hībernātus, past participle of the verb hībernāre (to spend the winter) and the noun hiems (winter), also the Greek cheimá (winter) and Sanskrit hima meaning cold, frost or snow. All forms probably originated in the Indo-European form ghei-, also meaning winter. Our word is kin to the name of the mightiest mountain range on the planet, the Himalayas, for Himalaya means "abode of snow" in Sanksrit.

Many birds in the northern hemisphere migrate south, but other species of wildlife go dormant through the long white season, and we refer to the process as hibernating.  Bears exhibit an elegant and impressive physiology as they hibernate through the winter in their dens. Ground squirrels, prairie dogs, groundhogs and hedgehogs also den up when temperatures fall, sleeping until outside temperatures rise and food becomes available again.  Northern frogs, toads, snakes and turtles are also masters of the art of hibernation.

Humans "do" hibernation too, and we do it both ways. Some of us travel to warmer climes to escape ice and snow and cold, but most of us simply withdraw from the outside world to warm dens of our own, and our mechanisms for getting through the long white season are highly personal. We retrieve sweaters and gloves from cedar chests, accumulate books, munchies and music. We kindle fires  in our fireplaces, pull the draperies closed and surround our winter selves with things that are warm, embracing, spicy and redolent of comfort.  (A fringed shawl in deep, earthy red comes to mind here.)

I buy more cookbooks between now and springtime, make endless pots of tea and pummel bread dough, listen to classical music and jazz, pose still life camera compositions on tables and sills, pile up leaning towers of reading material. The books brought home are usually hardcovers - there is something comforting about holding the real thing in one's hands, about the way the thick creamy paper feels, the smell of the ink on the pages, the shapes of the illustrations and the typefaces used. I can get totally caught up in the color of a morning cup of tea, and I have to resist the temptation to add cinnamon sticks, anise stars and peperoncino to anything I brew or stir up in the kitchen. It is almost impossible to pass trees and fallen leaves without getting lost in golds and reds  and bronzes.

For me, hibernation also means getting outside and wandering around with a camera, trying to capture the light of the sun as it touches clouds, contrails and migrating geese, sparks across frost dappled fields, farm buildings and old rail fences.   It's a meditative process holding out stillness and tantalizing glimpses of something wild, elusive and elemental. Ice, frost, snow and the paucity of light notwithstanding, it's all good, and something to be treasured. Every view is a wonder and no two images are ever the same, even when they were captured from exactly the same place.

3 comments:

Barbara Rogers said...

Oh how lovely to think that hibernating is shared by so many of us...and that we're also sharing the gorgeous sun when it appears on the leaves and sky. Cozy today.

Tabor said...

Yes, I also hibernate and try to get things done that were ignored during the summer. It is a nice renewing of energy time of year.

roth phallyka said...

that we're also sharing the gorgeous sun when it appears on the leaves and sky. Cozy today.


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