Ain’t too late to hibernate
With a hint of chill in the air, I reached for a cup of tea and found this quote by Pietro Aretino staring back at me from the box. “Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” Instantly I thought that dear Pietro didn’t have to shovel driveways or dress children in snowsuits who mysteriously have to go to the bathroom the second the zipper goes up. I thought that Pietro must not have had to endure darkness at 4:30 while his kids bounced off the walls and surely he didn’t mind the smell of well-worn snow boots permeating through his house.
But still, the spring of genius. And as I sat there with my steaming cup of tea, snuggled in under a blanket while the outside world grew a bit more dark and a bit more cold, I thought that maybe Peitro was on to something. I may not be a genius, but good things can come from hunkering down overwinter, reading books and drinking tea and playing board games by the firelight. Knitting and crafting and singing songs, and cooking big pots of soup that nourish the soul as much as they do the body and brain. Staying tucked away while the cold winds blow can indeed bring genius, if maybe we just listen to what our bodies are telling us.
Maybe not all winter long – I love a good day of skiing or sledding as much as the next person – but as soon as there’s a bite in the air, I can’t help but get the urge to hunker down with my family, wearing slippers and doing all of those inside things we never get to do because we’re too busy outside all summer long. It’s such a strong feeling that I can’t help but wonder, if we are truly just another animal living on this Earth, that biologically we shouldn’t hibernate (or at least go into torpor for you science nuts out there) for a few months a year. There is astounding evidence.
For one, I personally don’t like to shave my legs as much in the winter, nor do we get our hair cut short during these months. I think it’s instinct’s way of telling me to grow a winter coat and stay warm.
And speaking of staying warm, there is no better insulator than good old body fat, which we all know is inevitable during the Bermuda Triangle of holiday goodies that begins with Halloween candy, continues with turkey and gravy, and ends with enough Christmas cookies to fill a bear’s den.
There’s also the overwhelming awareness that cold does not equal good. I’m sure there are cold-lovers out there, but when my body is cold and shivering and my lips are turning blue, this is not a time when I proclaim how wonderful it feels to be outside in winter. Instead, we as humans do everything we can to avoid the cold. We have furnaces and insulation, Gortex and polypropylene, and even those amazing little packets that emit heat that we stash in our gloves and boots. And yet, our bodies still get cold enough that we yearn to stand next to a roaring fire and hold our palms up to it, ever so slightly toasting our skin back to core temperature.
Once we are warm, there’s a much better chance of us curling up and heading to bed early. With the amount of darkness that surrounds us from now until spring, it’s hard not to inch towards the couch or push the snooze button a few times. Last time I checked we’re not nocturnal and when the lights go out, I’m not too far from dreamland.
So maybe Pietro was right, genius does come in the winter if you listen to what the genius is telling you. Stop shaving, eat some cookies, lay on the couch and take a nap. Spring will be here before you know it, and you’ll be all the wiser for it.