greetings from hibernia

[Note: In real life Hibernia is the Latin name for the island of Ireland and has nothing to actually do with hibernating. A hibernophile is someone who is fond of Ireland, not fond of sleeping.]

So the annual joke here is that my landlady doesn’t like to turn the furnace on (not the thermostat, the actual machine that makes the heat) before October 1st. As anyone who has been in New England this week knows, it’s been cold. It used to be a situation that brought me a fair amount of anxiety. My landlady wouldn’t want to turn the heat on. I’d ask her, she’d say no. I’d grow colder and grumpier. She’d stoke her wood stove. My apartment comes with heat included, this no-furnace business is technically illegal but I don’t know how to tell a scrappy 89 year old woman that she is breaking the law and I suspect she wouldn’t care anyhow. I have an electric mattress pad warmer and have been pretend-miserable but not actually miserable as a result of this. Plus everyone likes to brag about how long they can go without turning the furnace on and I am not at all hardcore in this regard compared to some neighbors.

Over the past few years, the routine has shifted a little. Two years ago she asked me “Are you freezing up there?” and I said I was okay maybe a little cold, I’d just put on a hat. The implication that I got was that she was maybe also a little cold but her Yankee morality wouldn’t let her relent and turn the furnace on just for her. The furnace went on when I had guests coming and I said it might be a little cold… for guests. Last year I did give her a running account of what the temperature was in my place and when it got down to 58 she decided that was too cold for me and the furnace kicked in. Today I woke up and it was about that temperature in here, but I put on a few layers and it was mostly fine. I stayed active, determined not to give in. I heard the furnace rumble and the baseboards start to make their little jingling sound this evening and opened my email to a note saying “Just turned on the furnace!!!!!!” I see this as some sort of victory.

I’ve been reading a lot about hibernating since I don’t think it’s just the mattress pad warmer that makes me want to take to my bed in this weather. I learned that fresh water turtles can stay underwater for months at a time. Months. Underwater. Their heart rate drops to once every ten minutes. It’s nuts. And true, not just internet-true, I read it in a book. Then there are the internet fables about human hibernation (some heresay, some sort of true, some about hypothermia, some about who knows what) that would benefit from a bit more research.

My favorite of all the stories is this short story, fully fictional, called The Sleep by Caitlin Horrocks (you can read it on Google books or feel free to find/purchase it elsewhere or maybe get it from your library) about an entire town and a hibernation experiment of sorts. Every time the days get shorter I re-read it. I think you should read it too. Happy resting.

What do you think?