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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Habits or Ancient Instincts

In the past two weeks I've seen a millipede, two black windows, and ribbon snake. These animals will be harder to find in the coming months, but they were recently out and about, getting ready for winter. It is amazing how the forest ecosystem shuts down so efficiently. Humans are one of the only mammals who refuse to hibernate in some way. We force our lives to keep moving as if nothing is amiss with time changes, bright lights, and ample heat. In ancient times, life must have slowed in the winter season. It must have looked like Thanksgiving evening most of the time. People ate, slept, and stuck together.
As the season grows colder and the days become shorter, we feel the urge to retreat, eat, and reconnect. The winter holidays are full of food and gift giving. This instinct must trace far back to our ancestral roots of being hunters and gathers. Though our commercialized society has dazzled the winter holidays with obligatory spending, the root ideas of food, family, and relaxation (after the initial frenzy) are ancient. In the winter, tribal ancestors would need to basically hibernate. They would have eaten their stored food and put on necessary weight to keep warm. Family would have been important in any season, but perhaps most necessary in those winter months in which going outside was impossible. The lack of activities and daylight hours would have naturally resulted in rest and sleep.

Even the shopping frenzy may have some roots in ancient thought. Perhaps the shopping resembles an activity which would have taken place earlier in the season, gathering food for winter. In ancient times there would have been a rush and frenzy of gathering, hunting, and preparing for the cold. Our instinct to gather provisions for winter is no longer necessary, but we satisfy the urge by shopping. The task and purpose has changed, but it is rooted in instinct.

I am thankful for the family I spent the holiday with and the feast we collectively created. Yesterday filled me with joy! Today, with my fat gut, lazy disposition, and thoughts of shopping on my mind, I am tinged with guilt. However, breaking down the possible reasons for this holiday habits, makes me think it may be more like ancient instincts than I had initially believed.

1 comment:

  1. I would also like to comment before others point it out, that the disconnections are very apparent. The holiday season is stange and alien to the natural world in so many ways. It is a holiday that I could punch holes in all day regardless of religion. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about the similar instinctual habits. It is very intersting to me, and in some ways a new thought process for me.