Mid winter brings out questions. Where did the rafter of wild turkeys go that used to flood the woods surrounding our home? Why has the fox who has been barking around 5 am the last few weeks not absconded with one of our hens who are usually cooped up in the woodshed and left unprotected except for the chivalrous nature or our feather-footed rooster Mr. Man? If I cut a hole in the floor directly above the wood stove, will the pass-through allow more heat into what is usually our 55 degree bedroom on the second floor? Will this be the year I finally get a decent pair of cross country skis? How do I clean out our wood stove without an inch of ash fallout blanketing the surrounding surfaces? Is it going to be -5 and blizzard or 45 and rain tomorrow? Should I seek personal fulfillment from a job or does the fulfillment come from the result of that work? APA or IPA? Ant or Grasshopper?
All of this dilemma shouldn’t come as a surprise. One, we spend more time indoors with less to do this time of year and two, this first month of the new year is the realm of January’s namesake Janus, the two faced god of gateways. He looks both ways at once, betwixt two poles, weighing the options and existing with both left and right being equal and valid; looking both ways- the master of plurality. In and among all this indecision and opportunity to spin off yet another fractal-esque reality, if you’re into that whole infinite reality thing, is room for growth like a cheese seeking mouse in a maze or a vine slithering it’s way up an old hickory tree.
Sometimes I get the feeling that our minds are only capable of handling a finite amount of data and information processing before we suffer a Google-induced hardwire crash. Of course we evolved to gather and interpret vast flows of organic stimuli and then act accordingly, think Lion+Roar=Run in it’s simplest form or Summer+Lowering Cloud Level+Counter Clockwise Shift of Wind Direction+Low Flying Birds+ Smell of Damp Earth= Rain is a comin’ in a more complex stimuli chain. Either way we are consciously and subconsciously processing the signs of Nature with the result of all that data processing proving to be (and has been for like, ever) a major driver for our choices in life. Don’t think all that paleo- processing has relevancy today? Ask a door to door salesman or neighborhood canvasser which day would be better to chose to sell vacuum cleaners or Sierra Club memberships: A bright sunny day or a cloudy rainy day? If they wish to close out the day with a star next to their name on the promotion board back at the office, they should both choose the fair weather day. The reason is as simple and also not as simple as it seems. Sure people are in a better mood when it’s nice out, most of us would agree to that with no strain of logic, but more specifically and more technically it’s because of either high or low atmospheric air pressure and the interaction of that pressure on the fluids in our bodies (mostly between our ears). So there you go, there is one decision that Nature can make for you, now how do I use the weather to pick out a micro brew?
If you need any further motivation to get out this winter, just re-read this blog. This is what happens when I spend too much time staring at the heat waves radiating off the wood stove and basting my neurons in 16 year old single malt instead of spending hour after hour under the warm Maine sun standing knee deep in cold running water just for the chance to yank a few grams of chemically sharpened steel into the face of a fish, man I miss summer. One needs to get out in the winter, not only to get a requisite amount of exercise to assure that come spring you’ll be fit enough to hop back on that bike or hike the trails but to make sure that in the height of the winter you don’t start cutting holes in your bedroom floor or decide that your daughter’s bedroom would be super rad if it had a loft…by finishing part of the attic and cutting out half of her bedroom ceiling. Come to think of it, most of my cabin fever laced ideas this year seen to revolve around the removal or dissection of my home’s protective layers, maybe that is my way of trying to borrow out of my den and emerge ready to feast on blueberries and sea run salmon.
While it is too early to start talking about that which we shall not name, it is good to keep tabs on yourself over the course of a winter. On the bright side, pun intended, we are slowly reclaiming a few minutes of precious sunlight every day and I’ve already been eyeing up the sugar maples that will be tapped come early spring. But for now the lakes are frozen over, there is snow to be had and there’s more on the way and we have a whole season of winter outdoor fun ahead of us.
Update. 1/31/2019. One day after writing this blog I received an answer to one of those questions posed above. The answer in all irony and honesty came simultaneously as I was writing it. While I posed the question as to why our chickens were left unharmed by the neighborhood fox they were being summarily dispatched not by the aforementioned fox but by a white bolt of malice in the form of an ermine, or short tailed weasel. Mr. Man took a shellacking but as of this moment is in recovery in a dog crate in our spare bathroom shower.
Paul Sveum, a former Maine Sport Outfitters employee, is a Registered Maine Guide, Fly Fishing Guide, Bushcraft & Survival Instructor, and a blogger…among many other things.