Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I don't know why humans don't hibernate.

Winter doesn't respect the calendar in central Maine. The thermometer outside my kitchen door reads 21F. I don't want to talk about wind chills, but I'm watching the bunting on my neighbor's garage ruffle and float, and wondering how well it's attached to the clapboard.

My dear friend Jennifer L., the traitor who abandoned us for North Carolina earlier this year, came back yesterday on business and to help me celebrate my birthday a couple of days early. Jennifer, our friend Anna and I met for drinks at Joyce's, downtown Hallowell's coolest nightspot (and I do not mean that sarcastically in any way -- Joyce's really is cool).

The outside temperature was somewhere in the 20s. At one end of the spectrum Anna, hardy Maine stock, showed up without a coat: "This jacket is cashmere," she said, as if that would be enough for anyone. Jen, only three months gone from Maine, wore a coat and would have been plenty warm if whining was a heat-generating activity. I, in the middle, wore a coat and gloves but could not stop yawning, not because I was tired but because some more fundamental biologic process seemed to be taking over.

As I took Dizzy for his last walk of the night, bouncing on my toes to stay warm, I realized what it was: I want to hibernate.

Why don't humans get to hibernate, dammit?

I've read books about this. Very few mammals truly hibernate; even squirrels will wake up at intervals during the winter, to forage for food and make sure their nests are safe. Hibernation takes a lot of energy, and fat stores that humans aren't supposed to have.

But here's the thing: I've done my part. I've got those fat stores. I would be just fine if I could sleep between, say, Thanksgiving and Easter.

Well, you could wake me up for Christmas. And Inauguration Day. And I am supposed to direct a play that runs the last two weeks of February, so I guess I need to be around for that. And unless Dizzy hibernates too, someone needs to feed him and take him out...

All right, hibernation's not practical. It's a business opportunity for someone, though. Imagine if someone could offer long-term storage for humans through the winter: IV fluids, periodic turns to prevent bedsores, life management for the months people were sleeping. You could charge any amount of money for that. You'd have a waiting list for decades. I'd be on it.

Five Random Songs

"Quite Ugly One Morning," Warren Zevon. Ooh, not a good song to start the day. Next.

"Shiny Happy People," REM. Much better. An infallible mood lifter, and have you seen the Muppets' version? Go watch it right now, and thanks to Jennifer Jordan, who made me aware of it.

"Life 2: Unhappy Ending," Stars. Ooh, emotional whiplash on the iPod Shuffle. Claire gave me this CD, which was one of my favorites of 2007. Stars is a Canadian band that deserves a lot more attention in the U.S.

"Indian War Whoop," John Hartford. From the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

"Eraser," Nine Inch Nails. It's hard for me to believe that this album (The Downward Spiral) is 14 years old already. I think I need to lie down.


Karen Olson said...

It was 26 degrees this morning here in Connecticut. Way too cold. And windy. Really windy. My coat, which is usually nice and cozy and warm (made in Canada), was worthless. The wind swept through it and I'm still chilled. This is not normal this time of year. And I'm not looking forward to waiting for my bus this afternoon.

Ed Lamb said...

Perspective time: Pretty much every place in the U.S. gets cold and dark sometimes.

The temperature in Virginia Beach at my wake-up time (4:25) was 27 degrees. The dog was let into the back yard alone.

Anonymous said...

I didn't look at the thermometer that hard but I think it was 72 in Hallowell this am.

Woodfrogs freeze solid, metabolism slows waaaaaay down. Ande, unless something moves or steps on them, wake up fine.

I wonder if that delays the aging process?


norby said...

Erm, it was in the 70's in Denver yesterday. It's supposed to be in the 60's today. But icy rain tomorrow morning. Go figure.

Strangely enough, humans do prepare to hibernate. Have you noticed an increase in your hunger and cravings for certain foods lately? Your metabolism does actually slow down slightly at this time of year as well. Just Mother Nature helping you get ready for the extreme temps that our ancestors had to deal with. They needed those fat stores to get them through the winter.

Unfortunately Mother Nature hasn't gotten the message about our changing climate and lifestyles...

Anonymous said...

Hibernate? No, thanks! I'd miss so much and there are some truly beautiful days in the fall/winter. Plus, lighting candles, making tea and enjoying Christmas decorations are all part of the cruddy weather deal. And the snow... just the thing to brighten up a dark day. We're expecting our first round of it this weekend.
If it gets really bad, there are plenty of nice weather locales to visit during winter. Ahhh, traveling...
Greetings from Germany,

ps HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! It's already your birthday here in Munich. Am I the first?

Laura Benedict said...

I am the carbo-craving monster these days! I absolutely fear and dislike the cold because I can never get warm enough. We only lasted two years in Michigan because the lake effect snow and cloudiness drove me to a cocktail of antidepressants that would choke a cow!

It feels like a primal fear to me--when I take the dogs out, I realize that with just a small change in circumstances I might be forced to sleep outside in the woods or something. Agh. Now I'm depressed all over again. I think I need a nap. Must be a cranky middle-age thing--being as I'm three years older and all....

Hope you had a great birthday! xoxo