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Cold comfort -- the strategies of winter

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During this winter of the ultimate shiver it must be a rare American north of , say, 39 degrees latitude who has not been house-bound for a day or two at a time. The University of Maryland, which just barely qualifies for the discussion according to this criterion of latitude, has issued a cautionary bulletin on the subject of ''cabin fever.''

The advice from the semitropics is certainly debatable. If the morning comes when you cannot fight your way out the front door past winter's barricade, you are instructed to watch television, listen to the radio, and read newspapers to keep yourself jolly.

This is a dubious formula for happiness even in the merry, merry springtime.

Other recommendations from the Maryland winterizers:

Get a pet.


And ''observe hygiene.''

The last injunction, we assume, means spiffing up in isolation, like an English colonial in a jungle outpost dressing formally for dinner to keep from going native.

In weather's border states, like Maryland, winter is taken very respectfully indeed -- when it comes.

In the deep north one of two more casual courses is likely to be followed. People go outdoors anyway, treating winter more or less as a mirage. Snow? What snow? You call this snow?

The other popular choice is to surrender to the siege and go with it -- never mind the meticulous shave, the white-tie-and-tails, and the Maryland cry: ''Put some structure in the day.''

Enid Nemy, writing in the New York Times (well north of Maryland), has taken a strict antistructure approach. It can be no coincidence that her column about eating in bed appeared on one of the colder mornings of winter. In effect, Miss Nemy has provided her own recipe for ''cabin fever'' -- behave as if winter were just what you ordered.


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