Friday, July 27, 2007

The Chimera of Cabin Fever

We're being visited by a Chimera, which, as everyone knows, is a mythical creature made up of bits and pieces of other mythical creatures.

This particular Chimera has several features I'm sure I recognize: the hostile stare of the Basilisk of Bickering, the listlessness of the Elf of Ennui, the bullying nature of the Ogre of Obnoxiousness, and the ponderous and annoying wit of the Troll of Teasing.

Because the Chimera of Cabin Fever is a composite creature, he tends to shift from one of these irritating aspects to another, one minute blanketing the family with a pall of dullness and inactivity, and the next, causing them to shriek at each other in a pitch that would shatter crystal and an attitude that would curdle cream.

I blame the weather, in some respects. This particular Chimera can only make an appearance when for some reason or other you and your loved ones have been cooped up indoors for days or even weeks on end, with little break. I know from the experience of friends and relatives who grace a more northern latitude with their addresses that he generally haunts them in the midst of a bleak winter, when only the most hopeless of hopeless optimists would call that gray-brown sticky sludge on the ground "snow," and when a round of winter illnesses would make playing outdoors inadvisable even if it weren't twenty below zero with the wind chill factor.

For us, a series of days that have alternated between thunderstorms and mid to upper ninety degree temperatures has decreased my children's enthusiasm for outdoor summer activity; this is the rainiest summer I've experienced in my years in Texas so far, and I'm torn between being thankful for all the moisture and being frustrated with the afternoons of giving in to television as the only form of entertainment that won't lead to actual carnage.

Since it was dry yesterday, I tried to get the girls outdoors to play; but the hot, sticky atmosphere (humidity in the summer! what a concept!), the persistent circling of bees (probably more bored than threatening) and the presence of seriously aggressive wasps in the garage put an end to it all too soon.

Even arranging outings to air conditioned places doesn't much seem to help; we're still indoors, after all, and when it's all over and we return home the Chimera makes his presence felt again almost immediately. He seems to shrink the rooms so that they feel even smaller than they actually are; he turns all manner of games and toys into a dull, uninteresting shade of beige; he robs creative ideas of their power to destroy the doldrums that have risen up around him; in short, he's a blasted nuisance, and we're ready to be rid of him.

Unfortunately, there isn't a good way to banish the Chimera; this is one way that he's different from a few other creatures I've written about. The only way for the Chimera of Cabin Fever to leave your home is for you to be able to go outdoors spontaneously and remain there as long as you'd like, which is why he tends to spend his summers in Texas or Arizona and his winters in Illinois or Ohio. I see from the weather forecast for the next week or so that there's a chance of showers and thunderstorms each and every day, which won't help the situation.

Still, he can't hold out forever. Eventually the weather will dry up, and the humidity will dissipate, and the bees will leave our drying lawn alone and go bother the fishermen sitting around the lake near our home. I have every confidence that all of that will happen, and soon.

Just in time for us to start school.


Opal said...

I wondered what that was called!

Have you ever read Tell Me Another Story (I forget the authors name as it packed for the move). You could make that into a nice little moral lesson...or story.

John Thayer Jensen said...

I'm definitely a springtime person - and we in the southern hemisphere, where, yes, we walk around upside down, are preparing for it! August isn't spring, really. For you all in the northern hemisphere, think February. But I love August. I love it because what I suffer most from in the winter is the dark. True, when our children were at home, they were cooped up indoors in the winter, but then it was school time and you expected it. August is when the daffodils and fresias are blooming; buds are swelling on every tree; I can read on the 'bus all the way home! and I know the back of winter is broken!

And of course Kiwi Christmases are very special - summer!! Midnight Mass you walk home from church in (usually :-)) balmy weather. Even at midnight the sky is not very dark, because the sun is closer to the horizon.

Enjoy your coming autumn. We will be looking forward to springtime!


nutmeg said...

I agree...

And even if you have a pool, it's hard to use it with all of the rain we've been getting!

What a strange summer it's been.

freddy said...

Mr. Jensen, I love that you're preparing for spring! Here August has what we call the "dog days;" the image that comes to my mind is that of an old hound dog with tongue lolling, sleeping on the front porch in the heat.

Red, a few things that work in our house to chase away the Chimera:
-- a well hidden bag of crafts, costume stuff or toys.
-- a suspension of some rules leading to picnics on the living room floor or camping in a bedroom, complete with sleeping bags. Weird food is fun and can be time-consuming, too.
--host an "unbirthday" party -- plan, shop, cook, invite friends -- the whole nine yards.
--if all else fails assign household projects like cleaning out drawers, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets etc. (mine always find something else to do at that point!)
God bless!

Christine said...

Love that word picture! I hope your weather gets better, and that mine further north does too. :-)

Be blessed.