Monday, February 8, 2016

Winter instincts

I get sleepy in the winter.   Some may argue that it’s grouchiness, some may argue that it’s the winter blues.  My husband often tells me to go stand in the sunlight or hop on a plane to Florida because he nearly can’t stand my constant moping around that begins after the holidays and ends by St. Patty’s Day.
But I’ve got another theory.  I think I’m just tired.  All the time.  And it’s not my fault.
If given the chance, I would probably forego the alarm clock completely and spend what few waking hours I would have in sweat pants and fleece sweatshirts eating foods that are extremely high in fat content and salt.  My grandmother’s chicken noodle soup, for example, that when left over in the refrigerator becomes a solid gelatinous mass of deliciousness, would be a perfect food.  Also, beef jerky and anything having to do with potatoes and cheese.
These terrible habits—the eating and sleeping—is what gets me through the winter.
It’s almost as if I am an animal.
But wait—I sort of am.
Although frequently debated, biologically speaking humans are mammals and mammals are animals and all animals live where they do because of their special adaptations for their environment.  Any elementary science book will tell you the same thing. 
When the weather gets cold, animals have a few choices as to how to get through the winter.  They can migrate to warmer climates, like birds and retirees who are fortunate enough to be able to do so.  They can adapt, like deer who grow extra fur and fat, and also like my husband who likes a full bushy beard from hunting season onwards.  They can hibernate, like the groundhog whose body temperature drops to 37 degrees and breathes only 2-3 times per minute.  Other animals go into a type of dormancy called torpor, which sounds pretty amazing to me.
In torpor, animals such as bears (yep, you heard me, they don’t actually hibernate) and skunks go into a state of mental and physical in activity.  While true hibernation is based on length of daylight, torpor is based on the temperature.  So if it gets really cold, they just go to bed and sleep.  They don’t have do any thinking, like calculating shopping bills or helping with algebra.  Torpor can last for a day, a few days, or more, but eventually when the sun randomly shines, animals will wake up and venture out to find a snack, head to the restroom, check sports scores, and post updates on their Facebook pages.
I can’t find a single thing wrong with torpor. 
When winter hits and there’s a sunny day, there’s no place I’d rather be that out and about, playing in it.  But when the mercury falls, I want to be snug as a skunk in a rug.    And if someone wants to bring me a pot of gelatinous chicken noodle soup, even better. 

Just ignore my beard.

Originally written/published 1/25/15

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