I’m looking out my window at the grayest of days. Most of the Puget Sound lowlands are getting a lot of rain. The snow level is currently about 4000’ but it will drop to 500’ tonight. That means we’ll only see rain, but many who live a bit higher up will see beautiful white stuff. I’ve often said that one of the best features of Seattle is that snow is optional. If you like it, you can easily drive to it, but if shoveling is not your cup of tea, you can enjoy the winters without it.
Not so, this week. Yesterday, the state closed all four mountain passes. Lucky you if you are trapped at a ski resort and can’t get home. “Sorry, boss, but the state says I can’t get to work today.” So, those of us who are stuck here with just dark gray skies and endless rain, do not have the option of driving to the snow. And anyone who actually needs to get from one side of the mountains to the other will need to drive via the Columbia River Gorge, a route that can get dicey in winter also, what with wind and freezing rain and a bunch of unique weather patterns.
So, my question is this: Why can’t humans just hibernate in the winter? We must have some ancestors way, way back who hibernated like sensible creatures, then we diverged from them. Why? What is the evolutionary advantage of forcing ourselves to carry on our hunting and gathering and sowing and reaping and dishwashing and changing the sheets and trying to keep our spirits up through this tedium?
Perhaps the better question is why does anyone choose to live in Seattle year round? People who live in decent climates, sure, go for it, continue your normal life through the winter. But Seattleites? Hibernation seems like a perfect solution.
I remember my first experience of Pacific Northwest winter. In February of 1962, my mom and I took the train from Cheyenne to Portland to check out the college I wanted to attend. I was mesmerized. It was green, misty, cool but not cold, calm, just a dreamscape. Yes, yes, this is where I want to go! I don’t think I paid any attention to the people who showed us around campus talking about classes, activities, dorms, etc. I just wanted to be somewhere where the wind didn’t howl in below freezing temperatures all winter long.
I also remember my first winter on campus when I had to motivate myself to do something other than curl up in bed with a good book. As a kid, nice drizzly weather was a special time to retreat from other responsibilities and just read. But no, college classes kept meeting despite the drizzle. Had I not noticed that when mom and I toured the campus?
According to my daily newspaper, people all around me today are continuing their normal routines despite one of the most abnormal winters of all time. We are still in the midst of the pandemic, dealing with the Omicron variant which seems milder yet spreads farther and faster than its kin. Seattle has just endured two weeks of freezing weather with just enough snow to make the side streets (and all of the sidewalks) challenging. All of our mountain passes are closed through at least Sunday, and there is not a single break in the clouds.
Remember MeetUps, those opportunities to meet people with similar interests back in the before time? I think I’ll start a Don’t MeetUp that will take place each winter between the winter solstice and the end of January. It will be a club for hibernators, people like me who just want to curl up until the worst is over.
Generally by the first of February, I sense a bit of hope for spring. Primroses shock us all with their brave colors, crocuses start to appear, green shoots from other bulbs poke through the ground. If you live in the country, you’ll soon see the flowers of Indian Plum along the roadside, and before you know it, spring will arrive in full force. I actually love the optimism of February.
But January? Ugh. Hibernate. Care to join me?