Friday, October 21, 2022

Friday Ramble - Hibernate

The word hails from the Latin hībernātus, past participle of the verb hībernāre (to spend the winter) and the noun hiems (snowstorm, winter). Both are related to the Greek cheimá (winter) and Sanskrit hima (cold, frost or snow). All of the above likely originated in the Proto Indo-European (PIE) root forms ghei-, ghi-, and ghimo- meaning snow or winter. Our word is kin to the mightiest mountains on earth - the Himalayas. The name of the range is a combination of the Sanskrit hima (snow) and alaya (abode), thus "the abode of snow" in that language.

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

Humans "do" hibernation too, and we do it in various ways. Some of us migrate to warmer climes, but many of us simply withdraw from the outside world to warm dens. Our protocols for getting through winter are highly personal. We retrieve shawls, sweaters and gloves from cedar chests, accumulate stacks of books, cupboards full of tea, munchies and music. We kindle fires in fireplaces, pull the draperies closed and surround ourselves with things that are warm and embracing, spicy and redolent of quiet comfort. For me, a big mug 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, make soups and stews, listen to classical music (a little Mozart anyone?) and jazz, pose still life camera compositions on tables and window sills, pile up stacks of reading material. The books carried home are often hardcovers - there is something uplifting about holding the real thing in one's hands, the way the 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 cup of tea, and I have to resist the temptation to add cinnamon sticks, anise stars and pepperoncino to anything I stir up in the kitchen. In late autumn, it is is almost impossible to pass trees, hedgerows and drifts of fallen leaves without getting utterly lost in their golds and reds and bronzes.

Strange as it may seem, hibernation also means getting out for a few minutes now and then, trying to capture the light of the sun as it touches clouds, contrails and migrating geese, sparks across frosted fields, farm buildings and old rail fences. It's a meditative process offering 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 in exactly the same place. Yup, I can do this.

1 comment:

Belle said...

Beautiful. And I've loved your past photos of star anise in tea so much!