Remote Controlled

Here we are. Just on the down side of winter. The middle of February. February. The shortest, yet longest month of the year for us sunshine addicts. Longer darkness for the day than sunlight. Or… should it be looked at as “on the up side” being as we’re soooo close to spring once we get past this month?! This is when that feared “cabin fever” phenomenon starts picking its victims ya know.  The poor folk that are almost starving for warmer, sunnier days. Especially in the north. You remember warm? You remember sunny, don’t you? When you didn’t feel trapped inside. Inside. With the warmth. Inside. Where the cats are ambushing the dog at every turn. Inside. Where different sounds (I think it’s music) are coming out of kids’ bedrooms. Inside. Where there's no escape from the kids' issues.  Or the honey-do-list. Or lists! The garage needs cleaned out but it would be so much better to do it on a sunny, warm day. No escape? But wait! There's the living room! Where the TV is always beckoning. Ahhhh! Yes! TV! Tired of the cold. Don't wanna be out in it. What's on the tube?! We're past football season, have a shortened NBA season, hockey's in full force, NASCAR's just around the corner,... What's that?! There's more to life than sports?! Say it ain't so!!!

Most of my life I hadn't really stayed in that much. Regardless of the season. But like everyone else, you can't help but retreat indoors some during the winter. Winter this year has been rather mild across much of the U.S. With the exception of Alaska most of us don’t have snow up to our knees everyday for months. Here in east Tennessee we've been hearing frogs singing for about a month now, save a coupl'a days it got below freezing. Such a contrast to last winter when it was colder longer with more snow than normal through-out the winter. Around here anyways. The inconsistencies of what would be considered normal weather patterns are  not the only thing changed about winters in America. In one town I was in while growing up in the early 70's in lower, western Michigan, we boys in the school would get together for pickup hockey games at an outside ice skating rink. Is there such a thing anymore? Kids getting together from an established network of friends to get together at a certain time to participate in some "friendly" athletic competition? My generation did! And this was pre-cell phone/Facebook/Twitter! Hmmm... Now I'm wondering if other things have changed within a generation. Does anyone see any kids in outside pick-up hockey games anymore? Does Santa even deliver ice hockey sticks or pucks?! Do neighborhood kids or families get in snowball fights? Or build igloos or huge snow forts? I'm guessing cars are not getting ambushed at night by snowball wielding pranksters these days. (No you may not ask how would I know that!) I haven’t driven my truck out onto a lake to my favorite winter fishing hole in quite a while either. Or built a fire on top of the water. But that's not really available for a Michigan boy living in east Tennessee to do that locally! Satellite TV wasn’t really around back in the day… I wonder if they’ve got TV in their shanties yet! I know I would! But then, I was a satellite tech for a while.

February. Gosh! The days are getting longer, but we’re so craved for sunshine by now it’s barely noticeable. And if it is a sunny day all day? Thankful yes, but It still ain’t enough to fight off that cabin fever! Did anyone pick off that stinkin' groundhog before he could see his shadow? Seems like such an obvious "adjustment" to insure spring comes faster! I guess there is plenty to do until then. Always is! There's that garage to clean out for a lot of folks. It is tax season. Lots of landscaping to do out in the yard for some. Some could get a jump on preparing the garden before the next growing season begins. The grille could use a cleaning. But it's cold out there and who wants to be out in it?! It’s warmer inside! Where the TV is! Let's watch a movie! Got any pop corn?! And chips! Yeah! Whaddaya wanna watch?! It's alright. We'll work it off in the spring. When it's warmer!

Spending most of my life outdoors is the cause of my developing a sunlight addiction. Northerners seem to be more susceptible. I remember the irritation and depression during February and March as winter lingered on. And the impatience it seemed everyone would feel if it got cloudy and/or cold and/or snowed late in the season. Like on Mother's Day! Most folks today know the threat of skin cancer (melanoma) due to too much sunlight for their particular skin but Seasonal Affective Disorder is an issue many have to deal with. Shia Kent, leader of a team of researchers at The University of Alabama at Birmingham explains, "We found that among participants with depression, low exposure to sunlight was associated with a significantly higher predicted probability of cognitive impairment. This relationship remained significant after adjustment for season. This new finding that weather may not only affect mood, but also cognition, has significant implications for the treatment of depression, particularly seasonal affective disorder." - What we always called "cabin fever" is actually an addiction to sunshine. To cope with this before I knew I was an addict(!) was to get outside and do something.

And when one does venture outside into the cold and cloud covered day what is seen? Nature hibernating.The plant and animal kingdoms in slow motion. We would be too if it wasn’t for the way we manipulate our environment! Rather boring outside, wouldn’t you agree? I used to enjoy taking a walk in some woods-lined fields with a shotgun, some friends and dogs to go "wabbit" hunting. I enjoyed downhill skiing too during this time that seemingly has no life in the plant kingdom with all the trees bare and grasses at rest. Not to mention truly enjoying the cause of it all, the chilly temperatures. But the cold is due to .… ? Right! The lack of sunlight! And on top of all that, no football on TV! Ugh! The things an American has to endure!

But planet Earth is swinging like it always has. Slowly giving us our turn on this side of the equator for the summer months. Helping this hemisphere to shake off the cold. The days are getting longer. We are getting closer to spring and!... Day light savings time! Still too cold to go out without pants and jackets most days though. Yes there is a thing such as too much clothing for those of us that need every square inch of skin exposed to catch whatever sunlight we can! Hmmm... could it be?! The real reason behind "clothing optional" colonies?! Until it does warm up and life in nature springs back into its growth cycle, what is there to do? Oh yeah! Gotta get the taxes filed. And! Nascar’s starting up again soon! I was gonna work on the baby daughter's brakes but it's cool out, cloudy, rainy and there just happens to be a winter storm warning issued for the higher elevations around here. I'm prepared to be snowed in if it happens. I think I better stay inside and check the batteries in the remote!

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- Published 02/19/2012