Let's Hear It For Hibernation Nation!By DAVE KIFFER
April 08, 2017
I mean it truly has to be the BEST part of living in Alaska. After all the fish die in the creek and the berries wilt and fall off the bushes, you get to curl up in your bed and take "October to April" completely off.
I'm telling you nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a six month siesta. It's the one time when I can actually say that "enough sleep" isn't just "five minutes more."
This year was particularly restful because we slept through that awful late spring snow that inundated Our Fair Frozen Salmon City.
That would really have sucked if we had to actually shovel that mess, eh?
Of course, now that you mention it, there is a nagging soreness in my shoulders. Perchance I was sleep-shoveling?
That did so not happen.
But now that I am awake again, it is time to get busy. And naturally, getting busy means thinking ahead to the next hibernation. Which is now less that six months away.
Prepping for that means packing on the heavy meals between now and then, because - while it is okay to interrupt a good hibernation to get up to pee - it is not okay to wake up and be so hungry that you have to do something about it.
Fortunately, Ketchikan is just bursting at the seams with meals that pack on the pounds. Even though the timber industry has essentially been gone now for two decades, we still relish our "logger portions."
The other day I was at one of the local eateries, one that has always specialized in making sure there is NO empty space on its hubcap sized plates. Well, I got to the bottom of the meal and was surprised to find there was no plate at all. The portions just covered the entire table. Nirvana.
But, as usual, I digress.
Anyway, since the great work of my life (at least in the six months of the year in which I am semi-conscious) is cogitating, I have immediately begun cogitating. On hibernation.
While I am certain that my efforts at spending half the year asleep are pretty near perfect, I have decided to make sure by checking out some of the highlights of the rest of the hibernation world.
No, this doesn't mean that I plan to dig a hole under a muddy pond, like the frogs. I still prefer my warm bed.
But I'm sure there are some options for improvement out there.
As I mentioned above, the one break in hibernation is the call of nature. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more nature seems to call.
If you have to wake up several times a day to answer that call, it sure cuts into your deep hibernating time.
Which brings us to the hibernating habits of the bee.
Bet you didn't think about bees as hibernators, eh?
You probably noticed that they do disappear all winter long.
Did you think they just got blown by the north wind down to warmer climes? And then blown by the southeast winds north again in the spring?
Nope, they pretty much hunker down in the hive all winter long. And, guess what, they don't go to the bathroom that entire time.
They just wait until they wake up and then......well, then there is a big rush to use the facilities OUTSIDE the hive. It kinda looks like the line to the women's bathroom at a sporting event. Pretty much everything right outside the hive gets covered in bee poop.
In trying to imagine what THAT is like, I'm guessing it was like the "good old days" in Downtown Ketchikan when the 193 bars closed for an hour at 5 am and the patrons stumbled out onto the sidewalk to relieve themselves.
With that colorful memory in mind, we should be very thankful there are no beehives in Downtown Ketchikan.
And not as many bars.
Although what happens when the jewelry stores are forced to close for an hour each day can be just as chilling.
It's like Dawn of Walking Zombie Salesmen. The streets are littered with fast-talking, highly-cologned men in three piece suits "busking" and "hawking" frantically at anything that moves. Whether you have a lucky stateroom number or not.
But I digress, again.
Another facet of hibernation comes from the squirrels, the ones that are always gathering nuts as if whomever hibernates with the biggest pile wins. Actually humans also do that, only with pizza.
Anyway, recently research into the lives of squirrels has determined some interesting facts. According to the 2007 Biennial Conference on Ground Squirrel Sexuality (I am not making this up), Arctic ground squirrels hibernate for 270 days (My heroes!!) each year.
But in order to do that, they pretty much shut down their bodies to do so. They breath no more than once a month and their heart beats twice a fortnight. Of course, that means that things have to seriously ramp up for the 90 days they are "in session."
Just the opposite of the Alaska State Legislature when you think about it! :-)
But that means that since testosterone levels have gotten so low for so long, the squirrels essentially go through "puberty" each spring. Like teenage boys, they wolf down food, deal with hormonal changes, and do their best to "bulk up" as quickly as possible, at the local Gateway Squirrel Recreation Center.
Then they run around, chasing after the female squirrels who have just emerged from hibernation with the body fat of a super model. Which apparently causes the males testosterone levels to spike even higher.
This is in direct contrast to male bears, who get all excited when they see a female bear "of parts". Bears apparently don't like to get all warm and furry with the skeleton models of the bear world. Go figure.
The more I think about it, I am not so sure that squirrel hibernation works for me. It just sounds like too much work. And really, do you want to go around and be a teenager every year.
Every so often, I hear someone say they wish they were a teenager again. Really? That to me sounds too much like being in one of the inner circles of Dante's Inferno. I've always thought it would be more pleasant to relive one's 30s. It's a great time because your parents have finally given up trying to evict you from the basement!
So, no repeat adolescence if you please. If you think Ground Hog Day sounds bad, watch out for Ground Squirrel Day. Brutal.
That would be enough to encourage me to hibernate 365.
Come to think of it, that's doesn't sound all that bad.
Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2017
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