Winter: let’s call the whole thing off!

The NYT had a piece this weekend on the ancient European practice of simply shutting everything down for the winter:

Economists and bureaucrats who ventured out into the countryside after the [French] Revolution were horrified to find that the work force disappeared between fall and spring… Villages and even small towns were silent, with barely a column of smoke to reveal a human presence. As soon as the weather turned cold, people all over France shut themselves away and practiced the forgotten art of doing nothing at all for months on end… In 1900, The British Medical Journal reported that peasants of the Pskov region in northwestern Russia “adopt the economical expedient” of spending one-half of the year in sleep: “At the first fall of snow the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep.”

The article goes on to suggest that if French president Nicolas Sarkozy is serious about conservation, he should “consider introducing tax incentives for hibernation… There has never been a better time to stay in bed.” (But in Maine, many elderly people do not have families to snuggle up to.)

What do you think… when it comes to conservation and general sanity, would we be better off just dialing it way down for the winter? Shorter workweeks? No alarm clocks? Three-dog nights?

7 thoughts on “Winter: let’s call the whole thing off!

  1. sean

    in a way, i think we all celebrate this hibernation already, or at least long for it … one of the great memories of my life is going back to dunkirk as a young guy in my 20s for the funeral of an uncle we all loved very much, at a time when i felt under terrible stress at a job, and getting locked down by a storm that closed the thruway – and having no choice except for settling in for 2 or 3 days to play board games, walk to a corner store for bread and milk, and simply enjoy my parents. more than 20 years later, that was a precious time.

    it is the same feeling i get when the kids get a snow day, or whenever the weather makes the rat race unrunnable (those same farmers who shut down for the winter in france undoubtedly went 5 am-to-dusk for every month of decent weather). the winter, in its savagery, can be a gift, because it can be bigger than the things we like to deem important.

    on another note – check out the story on page 1 of the times today about where syracuse gets its manhole covers. those manhole covers are incredibly cool, artsy and stylish … they ought to be, considering what goes into their creation.


  2. Taylor Made


    I keep thinking that one of the things we seem to forget is the relative prosperity of people who live in the US. We could hibernate, but at the same time, I keep wondering how folks in the developed first world always forget that their wealth and good fortune is based upon the exploitation of those in the third world — did you see the article in the NY Times about how ‘Cuse’s manholes are manufactured in the most abysmal conditions in India? See:

  3. threecollie

    I read that story too and am in favor of the concept. I always thought bears had it all figured out…eat a lot all summer long, get fat, sleep it off during the worst months of the year then get up slender and rested, ready for another summer of eating. I like it!

  4. wild turkey desire

    Don’t forget that the black bear has a special ability that allows it to “hibernate” – it’s called the bear cork. Basically, when the bear goes to “hibernate” it blocks its rear end (butt) with dirt, twigs, pine needles, leaves, and other organic matter that will keep it from defecating all over itself while it “hibernates”.

    This is not a joke.

  5. Robinia

    To everything there is a season– in MHO, the winter is the time for reading and writing long, thoughtful articles, books and essays, doing library research, and attending lectures that just could not compete with swimming outdoors, were the possibility there. And complicated cooking. Rather than see winter as a time to close down entirely, I think it makes sense to see it as a time of more hearth-friendly endeavors, including, perhaps, a good bit of telecommuting and other forms of mediated correspondence– not less social contact, but, perhaps, less face-to-face. Heck, folks, we are coming onto to heavy blogging time, methinks. That is, if it ever gets below 40 degrees and starts snowing.

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