I remember when we lived in Alaska, there were these certain points, mostly in the winter, when we would realize we hadn’t been anywhere for several months and were starting to feel a bit trapped. Now, in a state the size of Alaska, this might be hard to believe, but unless you were one of those people prepared for any temperature and any weather, owned a snow machine, liked to ski, snowshoe or otherwise navigate the wilderness (we were none of these, I regret to say), when the temperature reached a certain daily level and there was about four hours of actual daylight to play with, you kind of….went inside. At the beginning, it is a time of energy and creativity, as you realize no one can expect anything of you, nor can you expect anything of yourself other than the daily chores required to stay warm and fed. But it gets old. People in Alaska who have money flee to Hawaii and other tropical climes as soon as they can, and don’t come home until Alaska’s tender green Spring hits. We didn’t have much money, and in Alaska, a weekend “away” is pretty much going to the same place you’re in anyway. But we liked taking off for, say, Seward, to the Sea Life Museum, or to Talkeetna to enjoy the village the way it really is, sans tourists, i.e., “Northern Exposure.” These places were on the road system. People in Alaska like to talk, especially at this time of year, and so in a strange way, loneliness was not at all the same as it is here where we’re all on top of each other. People need each other up there. We’ve tried to convince ourselves otherwise, down here.
Cabin fever. It’s an almost physical sensation: you feel like you’d do anything to get the hell out of town and go somewhere else for awhile. You feel like you’re strangling. We did, anyway, all of us, parents, kid and dogs. Well, the dogs could always wander into the woods and start something with a moose or caribou, so they stayed pretty perky, but we got a little crazy.
I allowed it to convince me that I would not be able to stay with Alaska for the long haul, after a few years. I was wrong, because it was there that the truth of our essential loneliness is unavoidable and can’t be hidden.
I am in a similar state of cabin fever at the moment, this one caused by my health, and while I keep myself pretty well entertained and get some reasonable amount of work done, I still get a little crazy at times. But you know, it occurs to me that cabin fever is a state of the soul. Everything goes dormant. There’s a sense of something bubbling down below, right at the pit of the solar plexus, an occasional hiss as something pops out momentarily and hits the side of this vessel used for cooking soul soup… Sometimes it feels as if there’s going to be an explosion. Where the hell did I put that recipe?! I know I had it…
Well. Nothing to do but keep simmering.