Cabin Fever? Ha! I lived for one year during the early ‘70s in Alaska and I can tell you, that unless you have experienced the dead of winter in some dark, grey, remote Northern region, you haven’t had cabin fever. Oh sure, we here in New York have those dismal days when the kids and husband are stuck at home: they’ve run out of “fun” things to do; the last bag of popcorn has been ‘waved; the dog pooped in the hallway (not going outside-nope!); and your sister called from Aruba to say she’s sunburned and has iodine poisoning from consuming too much shrimp. Those are merely annoying life experiences. Of course there are those snowed-in moments that we sometimes relish − a chance to pretend we could have that pioneering spirit. Maybe we catch up on our knitting, try a new bread recipe − oh, the aroma of freshly-baked anything on a cold, dreary afternoon. Or, maybe we will work on our memoirs; the silence of the snow has caused us to be reflective or something. We may even attempt some creative wood project in the garage, knowing full well that the next day we will be back to our 21st century schedule…no more pioneering and no more laboring over some really boring tasks we found so endearing on the “snowday.”
Cabin Fever? I lived outside of Anchorage in a town called Spenard. It was a town that time − and zoning − had forgotten. A place where manicured, evergreen-hedged yards, used airplane parts, propellers, chicken coops and duplexes lay side by side. A place where moose wandering on the train tracks, and Miss Fifi’s massage parlor both caused folks to pause and take out their binoculars. The short, narrow streets filled with ice ruts so deep that Natives on snow mobiles avoided them and law enforcement forgot about them. Kids wandering in the dark of dawn on their way to hockey practice mingled with habitually drunk, half frozen adults trying to find their way home. Schools opened/bars closed. Its COLD there, it SNOWS alot and its DARK during the LONG winter.
They have all kinds of amusements, gatherings and activities when the season begins. Everyone embraces the “Sourdough” life − bring on ol’ man winter, we are hardy and we are ready − until about February. It’s too early to start the lottery for the ice breaking up, you’ve eaten all the reindeer sausage you can bear, and no cars are moving on your street. True Cabin Fever begins even in this semi-metropolitan suburb (tales of real Cabin Fever from the far North are for another time and not for the faint of heart). Counselors who specialize in Seasonal Affective Disorder train here. Neighbors start to steal things from one another − gas cans, pets, wives. They begin plotting the overthrow of government. They hallucinate about condos in Hawaii. They argue over who has the ultimate recipe for haibut cheeks. They carve toothpicks competitively, and begin to worship Mr. Burpee and his seed catalogs. More than once during this time, the Fever gets to be too much for some and a “Spenard Divorce” occurs. This is unfortunately a well-known term in those parts for when one spouse decides that other will not get to experience another Alaskan winter − or any other winter, ever.
So, while we may moan and grouse about the length of our winter season and the inconvenience it lays upon us, we should all just run outside, jump in the snow and make a few angels that we dedicate to our sisters and brothers up North where Cabin Fever is just reaching its pitch.
JoAnn is the Executive Director of the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center in Poughkeepsie. http://www.cunneen-hackett.org