“Birds do it… Bees do it…” Fleas, both of the educated variety and those who bunked off school seem to manage it.
Well, okay, one bird does it, the common poorwill, the rest don’t seem to bother. With weather like this, in deepest darkest winter, perhaps they ought to think about it. Everything seems organised around hibernation really. The days are short, the nights are long, the light minimal… The weather is foul enough to discourage anyone from crawling out of bed and in sleep the body slows down anyway, using fewer precious resources at a time when food would be scare without commercial growing. I wonder if human beings ever did hibernate? Probably not properly; there seems to be only one primate that does so, a lemur from Madagascar.
Hibernating means stocking up on the body’s resources for winter… a bit like Christmas… Metabolism seems to slow down about then too… so perhaps instinct is to be blamed for the post Christmas inches. Trouble is, the core temperature should also drop, while we tend to freeze around the extremities instead. Granted, there have been cases of people surviving in extreme circumstances, in water, under ice, for periods of time that must have required some form of hibernation mechanism. We replicate the thermal side of that to limit tissue damage in some medical emergencies, like brain injury, but actual hibernation is still only the stuff of science fiction.
In evolutionary terms, it is not so very long ago that firelight and candles were all we had and the rhythm of our days would have been somewhat closer to that of the earth. The dark nights would have seen us gathered around the hearth, watching strange creatures dance in the flames, sharing the circle of firelight and the stories that explain the strangeness of the heavens and the earth. We seldom even do that any more… and instead of hibernating, we carry on pretty much as normal. Unlike our ancestors, we do not sleep and wake with the sun, nor does the daily bustle seem to slow for winter. We just keep plodding along, hunched in winter coats, complaining about the weather. The only concession we seem to make is to stay indoors more, where there is warmth and light at the flick of a switch, artificially prolonging our days in a synthetic mockery of summer.
I wonder how much we lose by ignoring the rhythms of the earth the way that we do in modern society? As members of the animal kingdom, like it or not, we do feel the shifts in the seasons. I wonder if we are designed to sleep more in winter? The whole set up seems beautifully balanced to give our animal selves more time to hunt and gather in the sunlit hours of a bountiful summer… and we are the only creature that seems to ignore Nature’s directives quite so blatantly. It strikes me that we may be stretching ourselves too thin in our determination to beat Nature at all costs and I have to ask myself if that willful disregard will have long term consequences for the health an well-being that we cannot yet foresee.
Or maybe I am just overthinking because I could use an early night…
2 thoughts on “Hibernation”
Great thoughts from Sue. Once, when we were without electricity for nearly two weeks, we just went with sunup to sunset and enjoyed the rhythm – Reading by firelight and of course, flash lights!
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