Cold And Snowy Holidays
While we were expecting to have low key holidays, another unprecedented weather event made them almost nonexistent. I can’t remember such a string of below-freezing days, let alone nights in the teens, with icy North winds making them feel even colder. It feels especially dire when we recall June’s soaring heat dome event. Going from a high of 106 to a low of 15 degrees makes me worry for my plants, let alone the local wildlife. Where I grew up in Massachusetts, such differences were common, so homes were built to handle all kinds of weather. Here in the Maritime Pacific Northwest, older homes tend to lack insulation, making extreme temperatures uncomfortable and even unsafe. Local emergency warming stations are open day and night now and shelters have been packed as volunteers are scouting the streets to make sure homeless people aren’t left out in the cold.
Hospitals are also busier than usual as yet another covid19 wave is cresting. My home community has seen the fewest cases in the county but in recent weeks, we’ve been leading the pack, with fully vaccinated people of all ages getting breakthrough covid. ERs are also jammed, as I happen to know, having spent many hours in one last week. Lately I’ve been having episodes of chest pressure, a feeling of fullness even after many hours without eating, accompanied by a sense of impending doom. When the funky feeling occurred again, my daughter urged me to call 911 and I ended up in the ER. After a zillion tests to rule out heart issues, and every test came back normal, I refused to spend the night there and went home. During it all, I became deeply sure that I’ve been having anxiety attacks. The medics disagreed, insisting that there has to be a specific trigger for a panic attack. Since I’d been calmly cooking salmon this time, nobody was convinced by my self-diagnosis, but the more I named it out loud, the more I realized the truth of it.
Pressure Is Pain
I get why the medics ran me through all the hoops. Say “chest pressure” and they hear “chest pain” and respond like you’re having a heart attack, which might well be the case. Heart attacks in women can present in all sorts of ways, but rarely look like the male version (which is of course the classic example). However, as I’m learning, anxiety episodes also come in many forms and not all are textbook-obvious. When I really started looking at my recent behavior, I realized that I’ve been self-soothing obsessively, knitting every minute I could spare from doing crossword puzzles and re-reading favorite comfort books (sometimes getting through more than one a day, the dark side of being a fast reader).
Now that I’m paying attention, I notice that I really, really don’t like not knowing what’s coming and I really dislike not being in control. There have definitely been a lot of events falling into both categories in recent years. Hmm. Almost the minute I recognized that I was making myself crazy, something released and a remarkable feeling of peace and spacious freedom blossomed within me. It’s been a week and I’m still riding that high, despite the crazy cold weather and holiday cancellations galore. Today, the neighborhood kids are playing in the snow and their cheerful happiness is infectious in a GOOD way (right?).
About Those Hummingbirds
Last year, my grandkids gave me a lovely glass hummingbird feeder, which was so popular that I got a few more plainer feeders to give more birds a chance at the nectar. During the summer, there are plenty of flowers and insects for the hummers and I don’t put up the feeders until the garden slows down. This year, a pineapple sage bloomed its heart out right up until the Big Chill arrived. Hummingbirds love those tubular red flowers and that and my many fuchsias kept the crowd happy, but overnight the world changed and now the birds are really hungry. To keep them well fed, I’m rotating feeders every few hours so the frozen ones thaw out before they get swapped out again. I start putting them out at dawn (which is well before sunup) and in minutes the little birds are buzzing in for breakfast.
Sadly, hummingbirds are very territorial and really do not share well. I keep moving the feeders farther apart to try to stop one big male from hogging the whole feast. My Russian neighbor also feeds them and the smarter birds zip back and forth from her porch to mine, with the big male in hot pursuit. It seems ridiculous for these busy little birds to waste so much precious energy fending off other hungry critters when there’s enough for everyone to be well fed. Apparently animal nature and human nature have a lot in common… By night, five or six hummers retire to a bushy screen of Mexican orange (Choisya ternata) that blends into a big evergreen clematis on my other neighbor’s trellised porch. It’s charming to hear them chirping away at dusk, when they tuck themselves into the evergreen foliage for the night. Apparently the territorial issues don’t arise over sleeping quarters as they do over food?
Once we start feeding birds, we have to keep it up, as they’ve come to depend on human help in winter. When filling feeders, always use the classic Audubon-approved recipe. Never use alternative forms of sweeteners, none of which are good for birds (and some of which are outright harmful). Never add red dye, which can be harmful; the feeder’s bright color is attraction enough. Always wash the feeders between fillings so they don’t get moldy, and let them dry before putting them back outside so nobody’s feet get frozen to the perches.
Classic Hummingbird Nectar
4 cups warm water
1 cup cane sugar
Mix well to dissolve sugar and fill feeders immediately. Refrigerate mix for up to three days or make a fresh batch each time you fill your feeders.