Between late January and late February, all I really want to do is hibernate. I don't exactly know why. After all, the days are already getting longer, and mostly, the weather here is not bad. It's just part of my yearly cycle, and although at no time of the year am I a happy early riser, for this month or six weeks I am positively evil in the morning. I moan and whimper, delaying the inevitable until I'm short of time--and then I snap and snarl.
Everything grates; I'm a curmudgeon surrounded by a veritable confederacy of dunces. One morning recently, for instance, I came upon a tree-sawing crew cutting down the venerable magnolia at the corner of Duke and Chapel Hill Streets. (Why in the hell don't they put the power lines under ground instead of destroying old trees?) All over the Triangle, they are paving the so-called "greenways" so that they are just more asphalt. Every politician and developer is all for growth--except when it comes to supporting the growth of the school system. Oh, yes, I am cranky. And this year matters are even worse than usual. What with the new imbecile and his old lieutenants in place in Washington, I'm pretty much ready to rampage at the moment I pluck the newspaper off the porch. And to tell the truth, I'm not that much less evil as the day goes on.
It would be a mercy to all concerned if I could hibernate.
Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to make that happen. But since surliness does not make for a good home life, over the years I've developed some techniques to make things a little more comfortable--and get me as close to the hibernatory state as possible.
Actually, hibernation involves lowering the body temperature nearly to freezing, going dormant. A hibernating animal's heartbeat is barely perceptible, and it breathes only a few times a minute. Hibernators include many amphibians and reptiles and some fish, along with certain bats and creatures like hedgehogs and marmots. They awaken very gradually with the return of warmth. Bears, in fact, don't actually hibernate--they den up and sleep, but don't lower their body temperatures that much, and are easily aroused from their torpor. The bear makes a much more appealing role model than the mud puppy.
Like the bear, I want to den up. Also like the bear, I've increased my body mass by feasting on all those fruits and nuts and other goodies so widely available early in the winter. Now I'm happy to eat less if only I can be allowed to sleep more.
But unlike the bear, I'm rather a princess about the condition of my den. Purveyors of home furnishings love me. Give me my big puffy quilts! I demand more plump pillows. Flannel sheets, ahhh. Crocheted afghans, please, and lap robes draped on every chair.
eriously, here is my ideal scenario for denning up on a cold February night. First, get the light right. It should be warm and soft and minimal. Light a fire if you can, or turn on the
gas logs, if you have them. Candles will have to do for the rest of us. Play some songs in mellifluous Italian while cooking up your favorite comfort food--something your mother fed you when you were just a cub, perhaps. Things eaten with spoons out of large bowls are always good. If I'm lucky, I've stashed some soup like Mama used to fix in the freezer for a night like this of particular need. However, a nice bowl of grits works just fine. Cheese toast is good, too.
Leave the dishes in the sink. They'll still be there when you wake up--tomorrow or next month.
Ignore all chores, and turn off the ringer on the phone. Put the candles by the bathtub, and have a boiling hot soak. Use your thickest, softest towels. Those nice ones you've been saving for company.
Now swaddle up in your coziest lounging clothes and furry slippers and ooze on over to the couch, turning out the lights behind you. Make sure you have plenty of soft cushions and enough afghans for yourself and any other bears in your house, and curl up for your first nap. The couch is a very important feature in any good hibernation plan. Really, you should make sure the correct couch for your needs is in position long before January. This is the first winter I've had a completely satisfactory couch, and let me tell you, it makes all the difference in the practice of serious sloth. Long and deep, covered in smooth leather with heavenly soft down cushions, this couch cost more than some cars I've owned--but then, I'm sure it will last longer. And it makes for blissful napping.
That first nap really gets you into the mood of the thing, and gives you enough strength to sit up and enjoy it a little. Now make some hot chocolate, maybe some popcorn, or a pot of tea or maybe have a brandy. Lean back on the couch, luxuriate in your shawls and blankets and cushions, and watch the candle flame flicker in the dark cave. Yours eyes are becoming very heavy ... soon you will sleep ... and when you awaken, you will go to bed.
And on the bed, there will be thick flannel sheets. There will be mounds of pillows, soft down pillows that nestle around your head and shoulders as you sink into them. There will be piles of blankets, or maybe just one down coverlet. As you pull the cover up over your head, you will congratulate yourself on the brilliant foresight that led you to make up the bed this way. Scattered images of life outside the cave may flicker under you eyelids. But soon all thought will cease as you drowse into the warm dark. Your last thought before sleeping sounds like Scarlett: "Tomorrow," you growl to anyone who might be listening, "I'll worry about that tomorrow, when it is spring. I'll wake up then. Bother me before March, and I'll bite your head off."