MARTHA SEZ: ‘The great horned owls are already sitting on eggs’

I hope you got a lot of valentines. By the time this newspaper goes to press, Valentine’s Day will be safely over and February will be halfway over, since it is a short month, technically, even though it’s a leap year.

Every year I claim to rake in a plethora of valentines, so many that the local post office can hardly handle the influx. I also like to say that my old beau, Mick Jagger, has, as usual, remembered me on this special day. It is true to say that I enjoy making and giving valentine cards and cookies.

Yes, it is still winter, and it will still be winter for some time, but not all Adirondack wildlife is frozen under winter’s spell. The little saw-whet owls and the barred owls, also called hoot owls, are courting now, looking for mates, while the great horned owls are already sitting on eggs.

According to British folklore, birds choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day.

I remember years ago taking a valentine card and a few daffodils to the home of my good friend Anna, who used to live near me. She didn’t answer the door when I knocked (for as long as I knew her, her doorbell never worked; but then neither did mine). I scribbled a note on the card — “From your secret admirer!” — and pushed the door open just wide enough to drop the flowers and the card inside. Then I closed the door and went on my way, assuming that she would immediately recognize my handiwork.

Not so. I spoke with Anna soon afterward, and she was upset.

“Who would do that?” she asked. “Who would barge into my house when I didn’t answer the door? And not even sign the card?”

This was not what I had expected. I tried to explain that I had left the valentine gift in the spirit of fun and friendship, but Anna was not mollified. I concluded that she felt threatened by what she considered an intrusion, even a violation.

Like many others, Anna suffered from depression and anxiety that caused her to self-isolate, or to hide, as she put it. She complained of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and bought special lights at the hardware store to mitigate its effects. The lights in her case did not work.

For some people, the paucity of daylight in winter is said to trigger a chemical change in the brain, causing depression. While the Super Bowl is for many a sort of national holiday, this is not enough to ward off seasonal affective disorder in February. Neither is Valentine’s Day.

Technically, February is the shortest month, but it seems like the longest, at least if you live up North. The magical, pristine, sparkling, softly falling snow you desired so fervently at Christmastime is old news now, unless of course you are a child or a skier or an Adirondack entrepreneur who relies on the tourist trade.

Of course, it’s not just February that causes people to withdraw. Self isolation is a defense, a shield against the outside world when everything just becomes too much. I admit that I sometimes resort to it myself. Even so, it can be very irritating when other people hide, especially people I care about.

Someone I know drove for two hours to see her cousin last summer. Although he had agreed to the visit and was expecting her, he locked the door and pretended that he was not at home when she arrived. After walking around the house, knocking on doors and windows and calling his name, to no avail, she could only turn around and return home. When she was finally able to get in touch with him, he told her that he must have fallen asleep.

Worrying about a loved one who was withdrawing, I recently went online to read up on self-isolation as a coping mechanism. The information provided by the site I landed on was maybe not the most definitive. According to this source, lack of face-to-face communication, or “technologisation of relationships,” as it was framed, can have adverse effects on health and well-being. The next paragraph, titled “Benefits of Isolation,” confused me.

The benefits enumerated included better sleep and improved relaxation. You’re more comfortable, you’re warmer in winter and cooler in summer — what? All I can figure is that someone (artificial intelligence?) mixed up the benefits of isolation and the benefits of insulation.

We’ll carry on.

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen, of Keene Valley, has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)

Starting at $1.44/week.

Subscribe Today