A recent heat wave reminded me of the dead of winter. Cabin fever, to be specific. There’s not much difference in our behavior when it’s 106 degrees in the shade and it was 105 degrees yesterday and it’s expected to be 107 degrees tomorrow, and absolutely nobody can go outdoors and enjoy time spent in nature.
We all sit indoors, day after day, and soon develop cabin fever.
But this cabin fever we get during summer is the worst kind. When it’s cold outside anyone can still bundle up and enjoy the crisp air. There’s still plenty to enjoy outdoors during a cold snap. The frozen landscape is now clearly visible and the intricacies of nature that cannot be seen in summer come forward.
We hike and glide on skis and drill holes in ice and hang buckets on maple trees and we feel invigorated. But when the temperature rises above 106 degrees and it hasn’t rained in weeks and even the swimming holes down by the creek are disagreeably tepid, nobody has a choice. We all sit indoors in an overheated mood and listen to the air conditioner.
But we still wish we were out in the sunshine.
We are wise to stay indoors whenever we find the weather severely inclement. It’s perfectly sensible that one should decide to stay indoors during a lightning storm, for example, or when a barrage of hail is denting mailboxes. Nobody wants to be the weather statistic.
For those people who find all cold weather unpleasant under all circumstances, even on perfectly sunny days, sitting indoors for weeks during late winter is the self-inflicted penance. Those haters of winter busy themselves by interacting with computers and speaking on the phone with people who might commiserate. But eventually cabin fever sets in and those haters of winter who choose to not go outdoors now wish they were outdoors in the sunshine—but on a warm day.
The fact is we all require some nature in our lives, even as we choose to stay indoors during a brutal heat wave. We need to do that essential thing all people have been doing forever, which is to be a part of nature. We need places where there are crayfish and herons and we need to hear coyotes and cicadas and spend time in muddy places where we touch the humidity.
I cannot explain why we must have this in our lives, or why we feel mournfully deprived as we suffer without it. But we must all sense the answer, and it’s out there.