Cabin Fever Dreams
Can Spring Just Get Here Already?!
Even though it’s the shortest month of the year, February never seems to end. For that matter, January takes it sweet time, too. It’s not that I dislike winter; I rather like it up until the week or so after New Year’s. The holidays, while often stressful, labor-intensive, and expensive, are at the very least pretty, what with the fancy lights and a variety of shiny and glittery stuff. But once that superficial layer of beauty of cheer is boxed up, you’re left with outrageous utility bills, steel grey skies, and piles of dirty snow and slush until March or so – later if you live in a typically colder climate.
Again – I’m not hating on winter. I’m one of those easily bored and restless people that needs four seasons to feel truly balanced. I look forward to winter, especially during those first few teasing days in autumn when you can smell the fallen leaves rotting underfoot and people are starting to use their fireplaces. I like digging out the soft sweaters, flannel sheets, and thick socks, and stockpiling my hibernation supplies of dozens of books, yarn, DVDs, and various beverages. Even at my advanced age, I still get ridiculously excited at the first measurable snow, and look out the windows every 4 minutes to watch it accumulate.
Then comes a few weeks after Christmas. All the pretty stuff is gone, and there’s NOTHING to look forward to until like Memorial Day, at least in lieu of paid work holidays or the reasonable guarantee of decent weather. At this point, I’m sick of having to pile on three layers of clothing and sleeping under a heavy comforter. Sick of walking outside into subzero temperatures and having the earrings freeze right into my earlobes and the snot freeze inside my nose. Sick of having to plan even minor trips around the weather reports. Sick of itchy winter skin and the smell of snow. By the time mid-February rolls around, I’m dangerously close to talking to imaginary bartenders and finding someone, anyone, named Wendy to threaten with an axe.
I know there are some means of combating cabin fever and the winter blues. Go for long walks, people say. Sometimes this works to shake away the cobwebs, but more often than not it doesn’t, especially when the air is so cold it makes your teeth hurt or the snow severely impedes your vision and/or footing. Or when the old snow still hasn’t melted from two weeks ago, and the neighborhood sidewalks are still a mess. Every try taking a stroller over sidewalks littered in chunks of ice the size of headstones? At night? Good times, good times….
Get out of the apartment and do stuff, people say. Sure, but that’s easier said than done with a full work schedule, a toddler, irregular babysitting options, and a hungry wallet. It’s hard to just take my kid outside to play when the snow is up to her waist. We take her to one of those places with trampolines and foam bricks every couple of weeks, but it’s not the same as being outdoors, and I always worry about what kind of Petri dish is forming inside those bouncy castles and whether that kid that kind of gives me the heebie jeebies is going to send my guileless daughter to the hospital the next time he bashes into her “running off some steam” while his mother with the four shades of contoured eye shadow is glued to her iPhone.
We did go crazy a couple of days ago and went to the local aquarium. It wasn’t exactly Monterey Bay caliber, and cost about $100 for three people when all was said and done, but it was a great way to look at and smell something different for a change. The chattering of the tropical birds in the makeshift rain forest, the smell of the manufactured seawater and chlorine, the slow motion gliding of stingrays, sea turtles, and neon colored fish through lazy, clear water, and just the warm, sticky air inside there were all worth the price of admission. But ya gotta go home sometime, and I was nearly as dejected as my toddler when we had to leave and were greeted with a blast of Arctic air and a car covered in black road dirt and salt once outside the aquarium doors.
Adding to this assault on the senses are the “flower dreams.” For the last 20-odd years, I have the flower dreams all winter, and they typically intensify by February nearly to the point of madness. In these dreams, I’m wandering through lush gardens or seriously pimped out neighborhoods – tropical Caribbean, French topiary, wild English country style, enchanted forest – you name it. I’m always barefoot, and can feel the heat of the sidewalks and/or cobblestones with every step. There are flowers and blossoms everywhere, and they’re usually of an unnatural size, color, or habitat. Blooms that resemble tulips are the size of beach balls and covering a 200-foot tree. Vines twisting in stuff that looks like a cross between wisteria and baby’s breath that literally sparkles winds around trellises and gazebos planted improbably in the white sand skirting a turquoise ocean as warm as bathwater. I walk up impossibly steep hills on cracked sidewalks in old mansion districts to admire their front yards swirling with row after row of red and peach roses guarded over by gargoyles and Buddhas. The air is always heady with the smell of fresh blossoms, warm dirt, and salt, and alternates between that heavy yellow sunlight and the thick grey curtains that always precede an epic thunderstorm.
And then I wake up in flannel pajamas to a shrieking alarm clock, 14 degree temperatures, and the thought of another day spent in front of a computer with a cold draft and needy cat settling around my feet. Another evening spent watching old reruns of Alfred Hitchcock and Three’s Company and trying to conjure up the ambition to clean the bathtub or cook something interesting. Another several weeks spent fantasizing about selling everything I own to hop on the next plane to Bora Bora or Fiji while I down that third vodka I didn’t really want or need.
I’m looking forward to August when I start squawking about how sick I am of summer.