I woke up to a temperature of -17ºC / 1 ºF and quickly decided to delay getting out of bed.
I’ve been reading a book, Ancient People of the Arctic by archaeologist Robert McGhee, who talks about the lives of the people who lived in the Arctic about 4,000 years ago.
McGhee speculates that coping with extreme temperatures probably meant a longer period of sleep during the coldest winter months. While not technically hibernation, it would serve the same purpose. Lowering the metabolism, or the amount of energy the body uses, means lowering the amount of energy the body requires. In the extreme cold, it’s easier to sleep than to run around.
As I lay under my warm duvet this morning, I thought about some of the cold times I’ve spent in tents. When the weather is bad and you have lots of food, it’s sometimes best to hunker down.
I’ve spent a few frigid days in a tent in a state somewhere between awake and sleep. I’d eat a little, doze, read a little, doze and sometimes just stare at the wall of the tent. On these days, I don’t recall feeling bored or impatient. Life was too simple for that. I was just conserving.
I did—eventually—get myself out of bed this morning when the light came up. Now the sun is struggling to give much more warmth to the day. It is -11ºC / 12 ºF, but the rays are hitting the cold crystals of snow. The bright glint gives the mind a lift.
When I checked my email, a reader had sent a story about a bear that had decided to hibernate under a bungalow. The bear tore out house insulation to use as a bed and tucked in. Just as a bear looks to human garbage for an efficient means of calories, it follows that our insulation provides an easy boost in the winter.
What I find remarkable about the bear story is that, after being woken up, the bear just ran away. While I try to avoid placing human emotions onto bears, I can only image that the bear must have been angry. My reaction would have been much worse.
There is some new speculation that bears might not technically hibernate in the winter, rather they go into a deep sleep. If so, their strategy for surviving the winter is closer to that of our northern ancestors. A good winter sleep might be an area where we can relate to bears. Or at least, that’s how it feels on some cold winter mornings.