I wish you could see the snow flying past the studio window. There is nothing like having a warm well-lit space to contain wintertime creativity.

The first real snow of the winter is on the ground. It fell yesterday and is being saturated by rain today. November is a slow time for many of us. Backcountry field work ended weeks ago so there’s been a transition to administrative tasks in the office. It’s good time to have meetings. And winter recreation season looms.

It’s four weeks until the winter solstice, and everyone notices the short dark days. The place I call home is at nearly 48 degrees of latitude. In contrast, the Arctic Circle is at 66 degrees. So Washington isn’t even close to the far north. Still the angle of the sun is low and far to the south. The urge to hibernate is overwhelming. The bees are clustered in the hive, the chickens huddle in their coop emerging only for a few hours. Henry the big gray cat parks on the couch when I leave for work in the morning and will not budge until I come home for lunch. And he sleeps on the bed all night, radiating heat (or stealing mine).

Cups of hot tea, woolly sweaters and hats, books and movies are all appealing in November. I’m also pulled toward the studio where a number of visual forays are unfolding. I crave color and movement and the physical interaction with materials. As much as I wish to be swept into an artistic whirlwind, all my being consumed by imagery and expression, I know it can’t always be that way. Sometimes I just show up at the paper, pick up a brush and slowly mix a color on the palette. Whatever piece I’m with whispers to me: something dark here; a layer of yellow watercolor there; put this aside and come back later. In the mornings, in the dark and half asleep, I lie in bed and let the ideas come. They appear fully realized and in color. I collect these in memory and feel their wish to somehow become visible. Long ago I learned that these twilight images are only starting places–to try to replicate exactly what I see in my mind leads to madness. So I begin everything not knowing how it will turn out. That’s how the creative process works.

Hibernation is beneficial. To do anything else is to fight nature. Why not save the energy for slowing down, resting, imagining and playing? Why plunge headlong into a holiday frenzy? November is for considering what really matters, for gratitude and remembering. And sleep and art!

2 thoughts on “Hibernation

  1. Every winter I wonder about this tension between nature asking us to slow down and commerce asking us to speed up.
    I remember reading once that some of our holiday rituals started in response to the darkness — to gather together on long, dark winter nights. That was before cars, shopping malls, and high-speed internet!

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