Friday, October 09, 2020

Friday Ramble - Hibernate

This week's word 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 mightiest mountain range on the planet, for the name Himalaya means "the abode of snow" in Sanskrit.

Most 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 leaf-strewn dens. 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 masters of the art of hibernation too.

Humans "do" hibernation too, and we do it in various ways. Some of us migrate 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.  Our protocols for getting through the long white season are highly personal. We retrieve shawls, sweaters and gloves from cedar chests, accumulate stacks of books, munchies and music. We kindle fires in fireplaces, pull the draperies closed and surround our winter selves with things that are warm, embracing, spicy and redolent of comfort. For me, mugs of tea and a favorite shawl in deep, earthy red are the right stuff.

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 window 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, the way its thick creamy paper feels, the smell of the ink, 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. At this time of the year, it is almost impossible to pass trees, hedgerows and drifts of fallen leaves without getting lost in their golds and reds  and bronzes.

Hibernation also means 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. 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 in exactly the same place.

1 comment:

Barbara R. said...

Enjoy hibernating...and I'll enjoy the art you post here!