While Walking: When Hibernation Sounds Like a Good Idea

Don’t you have those days when all you want to do is hibernate? 

When I feel that way, I imagine a brown bear or a black bear, or even a panda bear, though not all of them hibernate. 

In the Pacific Northwest, some bear hibernate. They disappear into a den and re-emerge in the spring. While it must take quite a lot of preparation to get ready, I fantasize it’s worth it. I fantasize about going into a den for a long weekend (or better yet, a full week), literally storing up my energy reserves for the coming spring. 

These days, it doesn’t take much imagination. Here in Oregon, we’ve been hit with three snow and ice storms, of which the ice wreaks the most havoc, and another one is due tomorrow. Each time, my clients stay home and I stay home and we hunker down and wait it out. 

We take a nature-imposed hibernation. 

I love these enforced slowings of life. I work on my book. I read the news and shake my head at the world. I’m glad to be away from it for those hours. I don’t mind the streets and sidewalks are covered in treacherous ice, such that going down the slope of the lawn or the sidewalk is not such a good idea. 

I hear people complain that we don’t adequately manage our snow and ice conditions here in Portland. They complain that until it’s a foot of snow, it’s no big deal. I shake my head because it’s clear they aren’t from around here. They don’t understand the particular winter weather pattern of coastal air meeting frigid mountain air rushing down the Columbia River Gorge and the exact type of snow it creates, nor the ability to produce ice in a matter of moments. It’s as if the Northwest is a unique ecosystem. Don’t they see? 

The bear see. They know when those winds blow there’s only one place to be and it’s in a den. Not out on some highway where the wind can get strong enough to blow a semi-truck sideways. Not in the hills surrounding Portland where fifteen cars ended up at the bottom of a hill piled into one another. No amount of snow and ice removal equipment would have cleared that seldom traveled side street. No, those streets are the kind that would be left to the residents to sort out for themselves. 

I feel lucky. I have a den. Not everyone does. Not everyone can get out of the wind and cold and have safety to lay down at night. But the political climate is changing in Portland. We passed a bond to build more affordable housing. In addition to the charities that offer warming stations, the new mayor opened a floor of a city office building on the nights it’s below freezing. I see signs of increased generosity. 

This weather, so much to respect. So much to consider. Maybe we humans can learn to navigate and get our needs met in some way that blends with the weather, that allows for it, that expects it.