This past weekend I spent the vast majority of my time at the home of some friends on the far southeastern side of Portland. Upon waking up on the morning of the first to see the snow gently falling down, I realized I had perhaps picked the best place to get myself stranded for the weekend, and it took braving snowy and icy curvy roads all the way to Oregon City in order to find clear highways. At any rate, despite the snow and ice I was able to make it back to my usual haunts. I pondered the effect of microclimates on one’s existence, appreciated the comfort of my brave little toaster making its way through roads that were less than ideal, and also had the occasion to wonder a bit about a subject that I ponder from time to time, and that is the subject of cabin fever . So, what I would like to do today is comment on some vignettes from my weekend as well as to reflect on the ways that cabin fever is easiest to deal with when one is around pleasant and enjoyable company, even when it eventually comes time to go home. Let us wade into the snow here.
How much does company matter in driving cabin fever away? I am, perhaps surprisingly, unusually susceptible to cabin fever. During the summer of 2004 a weakening hurricane stayed over the part of Florida where I lived for a day, knocking out power, flooding wherever a road went over a stream or river of any kind, and even taking half of the roof off of a neighbor’s house. After one day with no power for air conditioning or water, I was so driven to distraction that I drove around until I found a place to relax with a backup generator for a few hours. Likewise, in the Feast of Tabernacles in 1997 which I spent cooped up with my family due to a car breaking down after it arrived safely at our condo fifteen miles outside of Branson, Missouri, I remember more than a few fights over the course of one of the worst feasts ever with my younger brother. I do not handle being cooped up very well, and yet I did not have any particular trouble with it this particular weekend. I was not going stir crazy; I had plenty of good books to read, plenty of food to eat and iced tea to drink thanks to my host, and even if my car was buried under inches of snow and I had not prepared by bringing a large amount of clothes, I was enjoying the time surprisingly well. Company has a lot to do with that. Over and over again I find it necessary to note that it is not place that matters so much to me as the social context of my surroundings . When that is going well, life is good. When it goes poorly, as it often does, life is considerably less pleasant.
So, how did I keep myself occupied? For one, I spent the evening after the Sabbath acquiring even more books, chatting happily with friends, and spending a few hours playing a gloriously nostalgic card game . Perhaps the most striking conversation was one I had with one of my young friends after she was deposited by her father on the evening after the first day of the week/Gregorian Year after his weekend custody ended. After finding out that her teachers had procrastinated and not given her any homework during winter break that she was unable to do because of a lack of internet connection and computer access, we ended up having a random and enjoyable conversation about fan language (as well as her own plans for the future) for a couple of hours at least. While I thought of the text, the young lady herself kept on demonstrating various messages sent through fans, the placement of a face against a window, or of silverware piled on top of plates and cups. It gave me the idea for an entertaining screenplay about a contemporary gentleman who thinks himself far more suited to Victorian times than our contemporary age, yet who is entirely ignorant of the subtle social communication engaged in through hats, fans, hankerchiefs, windows, and cutlery, winding up causing offense and miscommunication through his unintentional signals to others and his total inability to read the signals they are desperately trying to send him. This is an idea I may work on in greater detail; it has a lot of potential, and reminded me why I enjoy collaboration when it comes to certain kinds of projects, and why I enjoy being friends with other creative people.
Sometimes a weekend keeps showing a theme, and one has to wonder what it means about the course of one’s existence. My love of books is not a secret. It is not a secret to myself nor to anyone else. Friends of mine, when they want to comment on one of the noteworthy aspects of my existence, comment on the ridiculous pace of reading that I do to people I have never met and who would have no reason to think anything about me at all. Total strangers, upon seeing my prodigious pace of writing, are motivated to send me e-mail messages in the hope that I will read books that they have written and publish, and I take them up on the offer. Friends of mine, upon reading books, tend to think fairly automatically (and often, although not always, correctly) that I will enjoy the books that they have read. Since fairly early childhood, family members moving have sought to downsize their own excessive libraries by adding to my own. I say all of this because I went into this weekend having modestly provided for the reading I hoped to do, and ended up this weekend with several more books, one of them loaned by a friend at church about Catherine the Great, and another few that ended up in my collection because they had been purchased at second hand bookstores by a collateral relative of my hostess for the weekend for resale and happened not to sell. An additional friend of mine inquired about a book that he loaned some time ago and that I have had a hard time getting through because I loathe its pro-Clinton political perspective. So far, they are a mostly obscure but entertaining lot. So there’s that. But when people can get so easily that I appreciate books, to the point where I am almost overwhelmed by them, I wonder why other aspects of what I enjoy seem to be largely ignored by others. Is it just so much easier for those around me to feed my unusual love of books than the other more problematic longings that I have to deal with in life?
 See, for example:
 See, for example: