I am a big fan of the Thursday Next series, the alternate reality, extremely British series by Jasper Fforde. Last year, I read his new, even more insane book, “Early Riser“:
The basic premise of “Early Riser” is that everyone hibernates, like bears, through the winter. Society is therefore structured around the hibernation season: eating more leading up to winter, surviving the winter without starving to death, and shutting down everything that isn’t absolutely essential during the winter season. For those of us with seasonal depression, this actually sounds like a fantastic idea as it would relieve 100% of the pressure on us to function during the winter months.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a society structured around winter hibernation, and as a result, I have to keep functioning until the time change and vernal equinox in March. With depression though, I have to expend twice as much energy to accomplish what feels like half as much work. It is difficult to start an activity or action, and I do not feel any sort of joy or sense of reward from completing it. With the commitment level that I have in my life, I then feel stress, anxiety and guilt for not having completed the tasks that I owe to other people, whether that is at my paying job, my volunteer work, or to my family. The resulting pressure mounts up over the next few months and by March, I’ve usually hit a wall:
This year, however, I’ve been blessed in that spring seems to have come early to the Northeast. The weather this weekend has been sunny and brisk, but not freezing. The world is filled with light and early blooming spring flowers. I feel like I am waking up, like my hibernation is over, like it is mentally safe to emerge and take back on my usual day to day existence without having to fear that I won’t be able to honor or complete my commitments. We may be doomed to changing weather patterns in the Anthropocene, but at least the 2020 weather patterns are benefiting me personally!
Still. I wouldn’t mind a hibernation period every winter. I would love it if nothing was expected of me every winter for about three months, while I slept and allowed my brain to rest and heal itself. Perhaps someday I’ll be in a position where I can align my life with the seasons, allow myself not to fight and struggle as hard as I can against the constraints of depression every winter. Perhaps I am made to hibernate. Between the idea of hibernation, and the concept of literature as a driving force of society, Fforde is onto a lot of alternate reality ideas I would be happy to get behind.
I’m in Illinois today. I’m about 40 minutes west of downtown Chicago, in Schaumburg, at a Staybridge Suites. It’s so quiet here – there’s no freeway nearby – and the complex actually has a sort of timeless family vacation quality to it. Right now, in summer, seeing families on vacation coming through here, it’s actually kind of heartwarming, and makes me look forward to when I’ll be doing this with my own family.
Also, did I mention that its quiet? I forget, in L.A., how much I miss sheer quiet, without cars, without freeways. My last trip out of L.A. was to NYC last week – even noisier and more crowded – and the trip before that, I was staying at a Holiday Inn practically ON THE FREEWAY in North Carolina. Stepping outside and having just that early morning quiet…it’s blissful. Despite the far-suburban sprawl surrounding this area (miles of malls, chain restaurants, inexpensive hotels and office parks), it feels almost isolated, like it is in the middle of America.
I’m also wondering about the historical context of this area. I can only imagine that it was farms before the sprawl covered it – what I call “rural sprawl”. But for how long was it farms, and is there some sort of original settlement around here? I always wonder why these places exist where they do – now, it’s as bedroom communities, but why are these small towns where they are? And it’s different on the East Coast, where each small town was clearly a farming community. Like in North Carolina two weeks ago, I know that this used to be frontier, so what was it like before the farms became sprawl?
Sprawl or no sprawl, the soft quiet outside this morning was a gift. The clean air is a miracle to me. It does remind me how exhausted I am, living in a big city like L.A. I remember early June mornings like this in Oak Bay, how it is full daylight outside by seven in the morning, how the ocean, at low tide, is dead flat, how even one boat, miles away, is the only man-made noise. Solstice is my favorite time of year, and summer mornings, in sunshine, in that early day quiet, bring me so much joy and reverence. It makes me think, I need to go home sooner during this season. I will need to show the wonder of early summer mornings to Ben.