Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cabin Fever 2013

This winter seems a long one to me, perhaps longer than usual. And though we only had two snowstorms worthy of mention in December and January, February saw a number of lesser storms, plus a major blizzard.

And the usual number of below-zero temperature days has extended well beyond the token six or eight that we usually see on any given year. Add it all up and we have something like an old-fashioned Maine winter.

As a young man, ice fishing was my favorite wintertime activity, along with hunting hares on snowshoes and cross-country skiing, just for fun. But now, these activities no longer hold my interest. It hurts my back to cut holes in the ice and besides that, it no longer seems fun to stand on the ice for hours on end jigging, or watching for flags.

So I’m ready for spring and look forward to the March 20 vernal equinox with great anticipation. And somewhere in the middle of March, I’ll begin my countdown to the opening day of trout fishing in brooks and streams. Thoughts of springtime activities keep me going now and all notion of wintertime pursuits have long ago vanished.

But that’s just me. Other people have far different agendas. Recently, while waiting to speak to an ATV/snowmobile dealer regarding a feature assignment I’m writing for an outdoor magazine, I overheard a telling conversation. It was unusually warm that day and a customer, a snowmobiler, was bemoaning the shrinking snowpack. The man behind the desk commiserated, adding that it was likely to put a big dent in his business.

Both of these people truly had legitimate gripes regarding a possible early arrival of spring. Of course I kept my mouth shut and even though the customer glanced at me, as if waiting for me to at least nod my head in agreement, I declined to comment. After all, my feelings tended toward the opposite direction. “Each to their own,” as the old lady said when she kissed a cow.

And today another snowstorm, complete with driving snow and high winds, keeps me inside, close to the woodstove. The scene outside could well portray a northern Canadian landscape rather than a rural clearing in Midcoast Maine. The nearness of spring does little to assure me that this won’t last. This feeling of hopelessness hits at the same time each year. Some call it “cabin fever.”

Of course nothing this side of a warm, sunny day will dispel the melancholy associated with cabin fever. Going out to dinner helped me briefly. I tire of my own cooking and so asked a friend to a local restaurant yesterday. We both needed to get out. But the mutual high we experienced from being out of our respective houses and around other people vanished within a few hours of returning home.

So now I’m going to lengths to “think spring.” To that end, I searched my photo library for a close-up shot of an English wood hyacinth, a sweet-smelling, dazzling blue flower spike that erupts in early spring. This cheery photo now serves as a background on my computer screen.

Also, I recently was given one of my old jobs back, that of home-and-garden columnist for The Republican Journal and also, the Camden Herald. I wrote this column for a number of years, but in 2008, an out-of-state company bought up the newspaper chain and instead of keeping old-time columnists and employees on, they brought in a new group of workers, their “own people,” as the new editor phrased it.

But that group went bankrupt last year. Luckily, a Maine-based publisher bought the newspaper chain and so many of the old-time writers are back, including me. And now, as not only a writer for the editorial page but also, a garden writer, I can fill my mind with thoughts of gardening, flowers, seed starting, lettuce, vegetable selection and a host of other happy thoughts. This does much to allay the ill effects of cabin fever.

All of these things help, of course. But one thing above all soothes my winter-weary soul. It comes in the form of a realization. Let me explain.

Each year about this time, I tell myself that there’s no way all the snow and ice will melt to the point that we can get out and about by April 1 (which, again, marks the opening day of trout fishing season on brooks and streams). And then lo and behold, April comes and it occurs to me that my fears were unfounded. This has happened for so many years in a row that just knowing the truth of it acts as an anodyne to winter woes.

So whatever winter brings, know that as surely as day follows night, things will change dramatically in one, short month. Take heart, you who yearn for spring. It’s on its way and nothing can stop it.

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