We are encased in ice. All that is mineral or vegetable is covered on every surface with a gorgeous, glittering, deadly coat of ice. The kind of ice that causes cars to crash and people and horses to slip and break bones. The kind of ice that seals doors and gates shut so you can\’t get where you need to go. The kind of ice that glues buckets to the ground and lurks under a thin disguise of snow so that you slip, etc.
So far the only casualty on our land has been the bottom branches of the perfectly shaped baby apple tree that I planted in the fall. It will bear the scars of its childhood accident for the rest of its life.
Yesterday, however, I thought there would be a more serious casualty of the weather—my sanity. It\’s strange how something that can feel so good at one point—staying inside as the storm gets going—can be so crazy-making at another—staying inside when the storm is over.
After a snow storm the duty to shovel, if not the desire to make tracks on that virgin whiteness, calls you outside. But after an ice storm there is nothing to shovel, no tracks to make. Disaster awaits on your porch steps. So you stand by the open door and flick salt onto the steps and hope nobody comes by. Then you go inside and wait for the temperature to rise.
That\’s what I did yesterday, only the temperature didn\’t rise. That\’s fine, I thought. I\’ll just stay in (my chickens\’ living quarters are attached to our attached garage) and sit by the fire and read and write. This is what winter in Vermont is all about, delving inward, cocooning.
One hour after the sun had gone down (the middle of the afternoon in some latitudes), I was having an existential crisis. Nothing felt right. I couldn\’t concentrate. I didn\’t want to write. I didn\’t even want to read.
The dogs kept giving me meaningful looks: “Well? What amusements have you planned for us today?”
“Amusements? “ I replied testily. “Why should I provide amusements? You\’re dogs– think doggy thoughts, chew a bone, meditate, but stop looking at me that way!”
I went to bed feeling unsettled and dissatisfied, like I was wearing an itchy sweater next to my skin (which in fact I was). And as I lay in the dark I realized that I was experiencing the first assault of the 2008-2009 cabin fever season.
I\’ll have to learn to hibernate all over again. I have made myself a solemn promise to go outside every day, no matter what the weather. I have arranged with a friend to hold monthly salons. But the fact remains that this is going to be mostly an indoor time, a solitary time.
I was an only child, often lonely amidst adult company, and when I complained of being bored my father would say “How can you be bored? Intelligent people are never bored. Think!”
O.k., I\’ll think. Thinking has been, after all, humankind\’s principal resource in bad weather until recently. Surely I can recapture that capacity. Surely spring will come early .