Tag Archive 'cabin fever'

Mar 09 2019

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A Taste of the Wild

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All week long I worked on my book about wildness and being human, effectively scratching the itch of wildness. Come Friday, with temps reaching into the 20s and the sun shining, I dropped everything and headed for the woods.

The big question these days is whether or not to take my old dog, Matika. She can barely get around now so any walk with her is bound to be a short one. But she’s been cooped up for days as I have. I decided take her. No need for a big outing, I told myself. Just a taste of the wild would do.

I headed for a favorite mountain brook that runs parallel to an unimproved dirt road that’s closed for the season. A beaten path made walking on the snow-covered road easy, especially with Microspikes on my feet. Matika crept along – her legs, weakened by a debilitating disease, giving out every once in a while. I stopped and waited for her every fifty yards or so.

While Matika was catching up to me, I left the path just long enough to post-hole down to the brook for a look. The stream was covered over. There were a few open leads of water but mostly snow piled on ice. All the same, I grooved on the sound of water gurgling softly over the rocks below.

Back on the beaten path, I continued forging uphill, past a beautiful gorge nestled in hemlocks. Then the tracks of previous walkers came to an end. I went a bit farther but Matika was having a hard time of it so I turned around. No matter. The blue sky, mild temps and fresh air lifted my spirits. It was good to get out, if only for a little while.



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Mar 19 2017

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Last Day of Winter

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A nor’easter dumped two and a half feet of snow earlier this week. That’s a lot of snow even by Vermont standards. Aside from shoveling the white stuff, I’ve stayed indoors for the most part ignoring it. The bright March sun has already melted off half the snow. I figured I’d just wait out the rest. But my dog Matika kept bugging me so out we went today, tramping in the snow one last time.

Right out the back door, I strapped on snowshoes and cut tracks into the woods. I was sweating in no time. With temps pushing up towards 40 degrees and an unblinking sun overhead, I lifted several pounds of heavy wet snow with each step. Not a cloud in the sky, though, and the pristine snow looked inviting. I was almost as happy to be outdoors as Matika was.

Not far from the house, we flushed several deer from the woods. Matika got on their tracks right away. I followed them for a while. Then we reached the quarry where someone else has been out snowshoeing. Yeah, it’s hard to stay inside this time of year, no matter how good the books and movies are.

We didn’t go far. I stomped out a small loop near the quarry then headed back to the house. A half hour of that was enough. Truth is, I’m already thinking spring. The vernal equinox is tomorrow and the first unmistakable signs of spring aren’t far away. Hmm… technically speaking, tomorrow’s equinox makes today the last day of winter. Snowshoeing was a good way to send it off.



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Feb 24 2015

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Frigid Temps and Cabin Fever

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Feb tramp AHLate morning. Having just finished a long writing session, I’m bundled up and out the door for a short hike up Aldis Hill. Temps are supposed to get up into the teens this afternoon but I can’t wait that long. I have to get out of the house now. Single digits will have to do. Better than the subzero temps that greeted us at daybreak, yet again.

At the trailhead I slip a pair of Microspikes over my boots for traction. The snow on the trail has been packed by the many snowshoes and boots that have come before me so traction is all I need. Looks like I’m not the only one who has cabin fever.

Naked trees cast blue shadows across the snow. They also creak in a frigid breeze. Rime quickly gathers in my beard. Walking in the snow takes considerable effort even with good traction, making me wonder if coming out here was such a good idea. My dog Matika races up and down the trail, happy to be out of the house regardless of the temps. Yeah, so am I – for a while, anyhow.

Chickadees keep me company. They are boreal birds to be sure. I look up every once in a while at the dark, grey-brown trees all around me. Otherwise there isn’t much to see on this snowy canvas. Then I look down, surrendering to the kind of daydreams that come so quickly and easily on the trail.

I’m not the kind of guy who tends towards optimism. Usually I see the glass as half empty, not half full. But one thing is for certain no matter how one looks at things: the harder the winter, the better spring will be when it finally arrives. This year it’s going to be a great spring.


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Mar 04 2014

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Cabin Fever

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Sheldon woodsIt has been a long winter, colder than any in memory, and I have a case of cabin fever that won’t quit. That’s why I went out this morning after a round of writing, despite the fact that it got down to 3 below zero last night. By the time I’d pulled on several layers of wool clothing and had slipped out the door, it was 10 above zero. Still very cold for early March, but it would have to do.

Matika was as happy as I was to get out of the house. She ran circles around me as I tramped a hard-packed trail cutting through the woods. She disappeared momentarily. When I found her she was chewing on the bones of a deer that hadn’t survived the winter.

The tracks of several other wild animals crisscrossed the trail. This time of year, they could only be doing one thing: looking for food.  That made me realize just how easy I have it. Grumble all I want about this long, cold season, at least I’m well fed.

The fresh air, bright sunlight, and forest silence work wonders on me regardless of the time of year, no matter what the thermometer says. It was good getting out this morning, and I was just a little disappointed when I’d finished the loop and had returned to the car. So soon?  Not the daylong excursion that I so desperately need, but good enough for now.

Patience, patience. Spring isn’t far away. In a few more weeks, Matika and I will be slogging through cold mud. Then we’ll be in our glory.



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Feb 16 2014

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Dreaming of Spring

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spring wildflowers in the woodsPity the poor coworker who had to put up with my surly mood yesterday. Because of a head cold, I haven’t been able to go snowshoeing this past week. And the foot of snow that fell a couple days ago created ideal conditions. Life isn’t fair. But my home still has power running to it, my cupboards are full, and I haven’t been in a car accident or stuck out on the highway like some people, so how dare I complain?

Truth is, I am now dreaming of spring. I resisted it as long as I could, but reverie overtook reality this week. Now I’m in the thick of it, pining for the green season and a forest floor covered in wildflowers. It’s worse than being sick.

I am luckier than most. I don’t mope through late March and the better part of April, longing for balmy temps. The first tramp across cold mud is enough for me to call it spring.  And every bug I encounter, every hint of new vegetation emerging from the bleached forest duff, will be cause for celebration. So the beginning of my spring season is only five or six weeks away. All the same, I’m lost in daydreams right now.

Writing about my outdoor excursions only scratches the itch. For a couple hours each morning, I am in a different time and place. But when I finish, the cold reality of the here/now bears down upon me. It’s a strange way to live, to say the least.

When a cardinal’s song penetrates the frosty window of my workspace, I know I’m not alone. Others are dreaming of spring as well – longing for the bounty of it, anyhow. But winter still has teeth. So I’ll stop brooding long enough to shovel away the snow from my door and go fill the bird feeders. There’s no sense letting daydreams get in the way of living.


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Feb 17 2013

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Sun and Ice

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lake iceToo tired to drive into the mountains, I went down to the lake yesterday just to get out of the house. I was surprised to find Lake Champlain iced over as far as the eye could see. One would think that recent thaws would have opened it up a bit. But the fist of winter remains clenched.

The sun was out, anyhow. That gave me hope. Lord knows I need spring to get here. I need a few days in the woods – the deeper the better – to unthaw my cold, hard heart.

I am hardened by the daily irritations of modern living: media hype, traffic, tax forms, economic woes, and all that idiocy in Washington. Doing too much literary work while holding down a job doesn’t help. Neither does the helpless feeling I get while watching loved ones suffer a broken health care system. I’m chronically tired, cranky and demoralized. Don’t know how my wife puts up with me. No doubt she would send me to the woods for a week if she could.

All the same a warm, February sun reflects brightly off the ice, reminding me that the coldest, darkest days are in the rear view mirror now. The first hints of spring can’t be that far away. Just have to hang in there a little longer. I’ll be tramping through mud and snowmelt soon enough.


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Feb 06 2013

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Winter Walk

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You know you have a touch of cabin fever when you need to get outside no matter what the weather is doing. That is why I donned my thermals and wools even as a snowstorm was brewing. But it turned out to be a passing squall. By the time I reached the Rail Trail, the snowfall had diminished to a few scattered flakes and the sky was breaking open.

With each step I kicked up a couple inches of the fluffy white stuff. My dog Matika ran ahead, stopped to sniff until I caught up with her then took off again.  She was as happy as I was to be outdoors.

A lone chickadee called from the woods, reminding me of other walks deeper into the wild, and the great calm that comes over me whenever I’m back in my element. Even on the relatively tame Rail Trail only a few miles from home, I could feel it. Funny how it always comes as something of a surprise. Amazing how little it takes these days to trigger the feeling. Apparently I’m predisposed to it now.

A mile or so down the trail, I stopped to groove on the snowy woods all around me, letting my hungry eyes feast on the February sun as it cleared a remnant patch of clouds high overhead. The small stream nearby was frozen over. Animal tracks were few and far between. No matter. Even as she sleeps, Mother Nature is beautiful.

When I turned around and headed back towards the car, a wicked wind blew out of the west slapping me across the face. Just a reminder that we’re still in the thick of it, I suppose. Fine by me. Let the wind blow, bringing with it whatever travails it can brew up. I’m not so easily daunted these days. Like a gnarled old oak, I’ve learned how to weather the seasons. Growing older has that advantage, anyhow.


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Mar 12 2012

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Lakeside Ramble

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With the sun shining through a cloudless sky and temps climbing into the 40s, Judy suggested that we go for a short walk along the shoreline at Kill Kare State Park. I agreed that we should get out and do something. I was exhausted from working all week while harboring some kind of respiratory virus but knew it wasn’t mentally healthy to stay indoors all day. Besides, a ramble along the lake wouldn’t be that taxing.

We brought the “chuck it” device to whip the dog’s ball inland while we walked. Matika badly needed the exercise. For obvious reasons, she doesn’t get out enough when I’m sick.

I saw a robin grazing on the snow-free lawn right before we headed out. I refrained from making too much of it. Yes, it’s starting to look and feel like spring but, as Judy reminded me, it’s still winter here in Vermont. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A solitary fisherman sat on the punky ice, seemingly oblivious to the pressure cracks and open leads of water nearby. Better him than me. I stepped onto a sheet of ice along the shoreline, felt it give, then stepped back.

Good thing we were wearing our winter jackets. A chilling breeze whipped across the half frozen lake in stark contrast to the warming sun overhead. Mixed signals. Yeah, it’s that time of year.

I looked for some hint of fresh vegetation pushing up through the barren ground but found nothing. The buds of a few hardwoods were swollen, though.  It’s coming, slow but sure.  Patience, patience.

Judy and I didn’t talk much during our short walk, yet there passed between us a few knowing glances.  Not quite spring but it still felt good to get outside. Good enough for now, anyhow.


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Mar 09 2011

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Trout Dreams

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A big winter storm struck northern Vermont two days ago, dumping two feet of snow.  That’s the third largest dump on record for these parts, making this the third snowiest winter.  Or something like that.  I spent the better part of yesterday shoveling and roof raking, and that was after the plow guy had cleared my driveway twice.  Yeah, a lot of white stuff.

Right now it’s sunny outside, about twelve hours before the next storm strikes.  I should grab my snowshoes and take advantage of this break in the weather.  But that’s not where my heart lies.  Last night I dreamed of a mountain stream teeming with large, wild trout.  And this morning, well, let’s just say the view out my window doesn’t match the fantasy.

Stepping outdoors for a moment to start up my wife’s car, I hear a cardinal singing loudly from atop a leafless maple.  He’s thinking the same thing I’m thinking.  And the warm morning sun assures us both that spring can’t be that far away.  But all this snow . . . egads!

Judy and I have a late-winter ritual: when the snow is deep outside, we cook and eat the last of the trout that I brought home the previous summer.  Granted, I’m mostly a catch-and-release fisherman these days, but I make sure to bring home a few of them just for this occasion.  We ate the trout a couple weeks ago.  And that’s just about the time I started yearning for the warm season.

This morning I opened the newspaper and learned that the writer/naturalist John Hay just died.  This news sent me to my bookshelves right away.  I cracked open The Immortal Wilderness where I had it bookmarked and reread this:  “Behind the world so recklessly and uncertainly claimed by politics and economics lie the magic and inexorable laws of the wilderness, known to every life.  The flower is wiser than the machine.”  My sentiments exactly.  So now I’m dreaming of wildflowers as well as trout.  Right now I don’t give a damn about the government’s budgetary problems, the health care debacle, or the price of oil.  I just want to see a brook trout and a purple trillium again.

Is this cabin fever talking?  You bet it is.  But there’s no sense stewing in it.  So I’ll strap on my snowshoes and make the best of the situation.  My dog Matika is ready to roll.  Unlike me, she lives in the moment.  She will romp in the snow as if it’s the first powder of the season.  And I will follow, somewhat reluctantly, dreaming of spring.

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Feb 08 2010

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A Wild Urge

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I’m not a big fan of winter.  I envy those with winter sports to keep them outside all day.  When I go for a winter walk, it rarely lasts more than an hour or two.  I have snowshoes but only strap them on when conditions demand it.  I’d rather just walk, and dream of early spring when the cold mud underfoot yields to my step.  Truth is, I’m just biding my time, waiting for warmer days.

Before crawling out of bed this morning, I felt it: the urge to wander aimlessly through the forest.  Some days the urge is greater than it is other days.  This morning it is especially strong so I’ll head for the hills as soon as possible.  Snowshoes or no, I’ll bolt as soon as I’ve taken care of any pressing business.  Or maybe I’ll say to hell with work and just bolt.

Some people call it cabin fever; I think of it more as a wild urge.  The mind can be a wild place and I’m comfortable living in my abstractions most of the time, especially during the colder months.  But there comes a time when even the wildest thoughts are not enough.  At such times the short walk I take during my midday errand running seems more like a prisoner’s daily hour in the yard than a bona fide outing.  Then I know it’s time to bolt.

The mind can be just as wild as the body.  Most people don’t get that.  They think wildness involves lawlessness, irrational behavior or sexuality.  Sometimes it does, but there’s much more to thinking wild than that.  I call it creative thought, at the risk of confusing it with purely artistic urges.  But I digress.  There are times when wild thoughts simply do not suffice.  There are times when the body must be as free as the mind.

So enough blather already.  A wild urge isn’t placated by abstraction.  I call myself a woods wanderer because, when push comes to shove, that’s what I have to do to keep from going crazy.  Words fail me.  I’ve gotta go.

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