This time of year, when the darkness increases until we reach Solstice and can see the return of longer days, I find myself thinking of hibernation. The increasingly tightened Covid regulations intensify that desire. I want to crawl under my big green Hudson’s Bay blanket and sleep for a long time.

Apparently, bears don’t technically hibernate, but rather they enter a state of “torpor” which seems to describe something of what I feel these days. In torpor, according to Science World, bears can sleep more than 100 days without eating, drinking, or passing waste. The remarkable thing about bears is that in this state they are able to turn their pee into protein. For some of us who need to get up two or three times a night to pee, this sounds like a very clever ability:


Bears figure prominently in children’s books. From Winnie the Pooh, to Rupert the Bear, Aloysius, Paddington Bear, and so on, children have been entertained for generations by bear protagonists. 

For adults as well, bears figure in our literature. In The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions is “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Rafi Zabor won the Pen/Faulkner award, for his novel The Bear Comes Home,a brilliant work of jazz fiction which features a saxophone-playing bear as the protagonist.


Marian Engel’s novel Bear, about a woman who is empowered as a result of her sexual relationship with a bear, won the Governor-General’s Literary Award. Rudyard Kipling wrote about Baloo, the bear who is an important teacher in The Jungle Book. Bears provide great inspiration for fiction writers.

And bears are also subjects of interest for non-fiction writers. UBC Professor Emeritus Dr. Margery Fee recently wrote an important book about the majestic and iconic polar bear:


My friend Liz has said that we need happy songs to cheer us these days, and writing about bears reminds me of Teddy Bears’ Picnic, one of my favourite songs as a child:


I used to sing this to my granddaughter when she was two and three years old. She loved the song and ask for it to be sung. again and again, but at some point, just before the line about Mummies and Daddies taking the little bears home to bed, I would see large tears rolling down her face. There’s something about happy songs, I realize, that can also make us feel sad, perhaps because of the recognition that happiness is often followed by sadness or disappointment.

There were many bears around the North Vancouver home of my daughter and son-in-law, and my granddaughter recalls seeing a bear and her two cubs on her school grounds. The children backed away cautiously! There was a bear outside our bedroom window one night when my husband and I stayed at their North Vancouver house, and one day a bear broke into their shed to get at some garbage. My son-in-law figured out how to deal with that problem and created a short video to teach others:


Many homeowners and the bear protection people were pleased with his video. It has now had 19,000 views!

There’s lots to learn from and about bears. 

I’m trying to emulate them through torpor. It’s said to help animals survive difficult periods, and I think it a little suspended animation can also help humans at this time.

What’s important, though, is for us to emerge from brief states of torpor with more energy and greater determination to do whatever it takes to see us — and to help others — through the darkest days of the year.


Is you want to write to me with comments about any of my posts – or with suggestions for happy songs – please write directly to me at wayword@telus.com. Sadly, replies to Carol Matthews These Days don’t reach me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s