I am going to pitch an alternate reality that began mid-October. That day I woke up and immediately sensed something had changed, the air decidedly different. When I went to open my window and saw it had frosted up overnight, it was obvious then that the cold had arrived. Of course, I spent the rest of the day needlessly hunting for more clues, what else was I to do? Under the robin-egg sky I got chilly in my usual jumper and rain coat; my toes had iced over by the time I reached town. The sunset began by afternoon, and golden hour worked overtime as it exposed, in glittering form, the day’s remaining frost. Nature had warned me in the most beautiful way that the cold was here for the long run, and beckoned me inside by five o’clock.
I spent the rest of the evening preparing. I drank three cups of peppermint tea, ate one apple and some leftover rice. I tidied my room, putting all the books back on the shelf and reorganising my closet drawers. Once I had showered, I put on tartan trousers and a well-worn black top, then went to sleep. It was, and still is, a very deep-sleep: I have not woken up since mid-October. I have been dreaming of snow-drops and lambs playing in the field. It is all very quaint and light, here in my deep-sleep. I plan on waking up but not until March, maybe April though if it’s still this fucking cold.
If it wasn’t already obvious I have double-checked if humans can hibernate, and unfortunately it likely involves an aggressive drug use. However, there remains something quite attractive about going into a state of torpor, in balling up like a hedgehog until the warmth of a spring sun returns once again. For early humans this might not have been just an alternate reality, there is some evidence for them hibernating several months each year! I am using this information to justify my impulse to draw the blinds semi-permanently, hoping my ancestors are encouraging me from afar. After all, going into a deep-sleep sounds like quite a restorative idea. When the winter seems to render me inert anyway, I do wonder about the possibility of just staying horizontal. Being unconscious of the cold and living in a state of dreams, well, it all sounds rather peaceful…
However, as I am not a scientist, I don’t think I will figure out how to hibernate anytime soon; probably for the best as I wouldn’t get paid for months of sleeping. But I have learnt there are still ways to fulfil the need to restore during winter, which are a little more practical than shutting out the world. I think the nagging in me to slow down was a call to prioritise the winter as a season for retreat.
I would begin this firstly by surrendering to the light a lot more, letting myself wind down with the longer nights and being in a state of relaxation until the sun calls me awake. Furthermore, during the dark hours I would put less pressure on the need for me to be fully asleep, accepting a drifting state of awareness instead. Although the idea of disrupted sleep doesn’t sound like the best idea, waking in the early morning doesn’t have to be a negative at all. Historically, nights were divided into a first and second sleep, in between which one would keep watch. This ‘watch’ period could be used for a manner of things, such as prayer or reflection, even to play. I want to try not being afraid of my consciousness at three a.m. and instead enjoy the little energy I have to contemplate or just stretch out a little.
As I write, I am realising that part of what attracts me to hibernating is the invisibility of it: is there a way I can avoid retreating into myself completely? What do I want to retreat to? Is it a state or a person? Do I want to share my winterings, my first and second sleeps? The idea of being fully alone tugs at me with its invisible string, but realistically I know that I tend to over indulge myself in loneliness. If I withdraw into myself completely I may find a spark of light, but more likely it would just be another version of darkness made visible. I want the time to dream and create imaginary worlds, as long as I am cautious to not get stuck in them forever. Romanticising winter is something I am very good at; a perfect picture of blankets and cinnamon, but why do I think I am going to find this state through hibernating? Why do I find dreaming about winter more desirable than living in it? The more I think about it, the more I don’t know.
Regardless, I am looking forward to going home in December and having a little hibernating time away from Oxford. I don’t plan on isolating myself entirely, but just processing everything in smaller fragments. Sleeping more, dreaming more, and moving a lot less. If I do go into full hibernation mode, it will only be because my cat has agreed to join me.