Encore: The Propensity to Burrow

For someone with claustrophobic tendencies, I spend a majority of my time burrowing. I think it has something to do with how I was raised and the need to keep warm.

For the first decade of my life my family and I lived in the same farmhouse my father was raised. We slept upstairs that was heated only by the rising of the heat from the floor below. There were several frigid winter nights when mom would make sure we went to bed with socks and pile the blankets and quilts and “panenas” ( I’m totally guessemating the spelling on this one, my mom used to call comforters “pa-nen-as”. It must be Ukrainian for duvet) on top of us. We felt like the pea in the “Princess and the Pea”. And don’t even try to use the washroom once you’re pinned underneath. You held your bladder until the morning then made a mad dash for the toilet stopping to stand on one of the few heat registers on the main floor of the house, night-gown billowing and from the warm, welcoming air. Two little girls could fit comfortably on one heat register back then.

The year I left home to attend university mom made sure we were well prepared for the bitter winter walks to campus. She bought all the material for a long double-layered Inuit style parka complete with fur-lined hood. Mine was a beautiful cream colour with a periwinkle blue outer shell. When I wore it I felt as though I was zipped tightly in a snug sleeping bag opened only at the bottom enabling mobility. With the hood up I had no peripheral vision. I had to be careful crossing the street, turning twisting my body ninety degree to the left, then ninety degrees to the right, so I would not become a hood ornament.

Years later, when I traveled to Scotland and experienced a cold so cold that can only be described as epic, I discovered other ways of burrowing. During a mid February night, living in a building with no central heating, you learn to layer. I’d fall asleep only when I had donned a pair of leotards, socks, flannel pajama bottoms, a turtleneck and a sweatshirt. And only then, the first and only hot water bottle I’d ever purchase, and I would hunker down underneath a goose down duvet.

Now, for purely psychological reasons,I sleep most successfully with no less than six pillows nested around me. Pulling my duvet and treasured quilt up and over my neck and shoulders. Most nights I plug one ear bud of my iPod in and listen to podcasts about history or literature or politics. Becoming enclosed in my own little safe cell.

I think sometimes humans have the need to cocoon themselves in something warm and soft and safe. A place where we feel protected, be it from an environmental cold or a psychological chill. To feel somewhat removed from the elements of the day in order to regroup, reenergize, regenerate and ultimately emerge ready to face whatever the day throws at us.

What are you burrowing habits? Do they involve a case of beer, a bag of nachos and a football game on a big screen television? Or maybe an appointment in a dimly lit room smelling of lavender and camomile where someone massages sore aching muscles? Perhaps an evening in a dark theater watching an adventure unravel in front of you, your only responsibility to feed popcorn into your mouth. Whatever the way, I hope the day brings you an opportunity to hide yourself if even for an hour.


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