Living in Cages

Spring is almost here and I can’t wait.  Every day I check the extended forecast waiting to see the warming trend that means winter is officially over.   There are some truly beautiful aspects of winter but there are negative ones as well.

winter fun

 

I enjoy the first few days of winter. It’s a time to come inside and relax, curl up with a good book and a blanket while watching the landscape change from green and colorful to white.  It’s a nice feeling to have a few days without work and just exist.  Soon the novelty of it wears off and I begin to feel like a caged animal.

We are brilliant as a species. Just look at all we have created. We’ve learned to harness power and build amazing machines to both help us work and entertain us. But I am still part of the animal kingdom and living indoors for months at a time takes its toll on my well-being.

There is no other animal that lives in such an artificial environment for extended periods of time like we, and our domesticated pets, do.  Sure there are the animals, such as mice, who attempt to move in to our homes to stay warm but on a whole we are the only ones who rely completely on a heated home in exclusion of all other environments when the weather isn’t to our liking.

A recent comment about animals in cages led me to realize what it is about this time of year that bothers me the most.  I feel like that caged animal in the zoo.  Sure I have the keys to leave the cage whenever I want but my body is not equipped to survive for long without central heating on a bitter cold day.  With my physical limitations there is little I can do outside in the winter even if I should head out and I’m not one who enjoys being still for long.

I avoid visiting most zoos because I can’t stand to see the sadness in the eyes of the animals.  I instinctively look at each animal and picture how they would be living if they were back in their natural environment. The last time I visited a zoo there was a highly advertised attraction, orangutans.  It was this “attraction” that broke my heart causing me to break down in tears.

The cage was cement formed to create shelves the orangutans could sit on and a small pool of water they could visit. The entire space was divided into two rooms not much larger than the three rooms I live in.  There were three females, several youths and one male orangutan in this space. The females looked defeated. They sat, heads hung low and did nothing until one of their off spring would come seeking to be held.  I wondered how many of the people standing around me watching these beautiful creatures went home to veg out with as nearly a blank look as these orangutans had.

I was fortunate as a child to be introduced to nature.  In those years children were expected to be outdoors so we were. I also camped for weeks at a time, six to eight weeks straight, where the sounds of modern life were non-existent. We had no televisions, no cars, visited no stores.  The camps had shelters and we did have electricity for lights and the occasional radio but at night I would drag my sleeping blanket outside to sleep soundly surrounded by the nocturnal sounds of a natural environment.  Returning home from these camping experiences took me weeks to adjust whereas arriving at camp I transitioned immediately into the natural state of life and felt at home.

Each autumn I make a list of all the things I can do during the winter months to keep me distracted from the confinement I will soon feel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before I start putting those things off.  There is an underlying feeling of being confined that expresses itself as a form of depression that I battle as the winter months progress.

As spring gets closer I feel my energy increase and those little jobs I’d planned to accomplish slowly through winter are now pressing me to finish them. I don’t want them nagging me when I can be outside so I rush to finish them now.

I have long joked I could easily live like a bear who goes into hibernation during the long winter.  I wouldn’t mind falling asleep on the first day of winter and waking the next to find spring had arrived although at this point in life I don’t want to miss nearly half of each year as time is speeding up too much as it is.

It’s no wonder we have a society of people who find themselves depressed, addicted to substances and activities such as mindlessly sitting in front of a television screen or children glued to their video games.  Many have never had the extended camping experiences I did to feel the difference between living in nature versus our modern environments. There is even a name for this Nature Deficit Disorder coined by Richard Louv.  This paper on Nature Deficit Disorder covers the effects on the development of children who grow up absent immersion in nature and well worth a read.

In Life Under the Plum Tree, Ryan is experimenting with living closer to nature by living in a tent on a friend’s property.  While this is in an urban setting, Ryan, is learning much of the same things I learned camping.  It’s an experiment that while I am drawn to it’s not one I can adopt at this point in my life. It reminds me though of those backyard sleep overs we used to have, I wonder if there are any children who still experience a back yard sleep over with friends.

How do you spend your winters? Do you ever feel disconnected as you wait for spring?

 

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37 comments

  1. all well spoke..

    in many ways I feel the same. However, in many ways not.

    I truly LOVE looking out a window, watching the animals/birds/blizzards/storms..Love it. (of course if I do not
    have an easy window to look out, it is much different.)

    what I have always always felt terrible bad about was animals in cages. truly awful.

    we had a series of budgies as pets. we had a cage for them, but the door was only closed at night, and that so we knew where they were.

    I have only been to a zoo two, maybe three times, and that was to take my son as a small child. Maybe he picked it up from me, but even as a toddler, he was not too interested in animals in cages..Neither I, so I went no more.

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    • Oh, don’t get me wrong I too love to watch through a window. It’s one of the things I dislike about my house. I have plenty of windows but none look out onto my gardens. I do have one view that is pretty and we watch the birds and groundhogs from those windows. But a window for months on end isn’t the same as being able to go outside.

      I never knew anyone who had badgers as pets. 🙂 But when it comes to cages, I look at dog kennels as cages and never used one even though the veterinarians say dogs like them. I can’t picture that being the case. Wild dogs don’t lock themselves up in small spaces so why would a domesticated dog like it.They are pack animals, to be separated from the pack, in this case the family, seems to go against their natural instincts.

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      • okay, you and I are reading too quickly…grin

        I read your “badgers as pets” and wondered what the heck
        and had to read my post twice to realise

        when I wrote budgies, you read badgers…grin

        no matter

        I think a badger would be too feisty for a pet, grin

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  2. I agree with you Lois.. Zoos too are not for me.. Nothing beats seeing an animal live in its natural surroundings..
    I hope soon the weather warms so you can get out and about a bit more.. The snow we had promised never arrived although the its dropped colder.. Sending warm thoughts Lois and hope you and your little ones are well.. xxx Hugs Sue

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    • I did visit one zoo that was amazing. the animals had their natural habitats to live in but that meant we didn’t see many of them because they were back in the foliage or something but the entire place was set up like hiking trails so the setting was worth the visit and the children still enjoyed trying to find the animals as we strolled the paths.

      We’ve had a couple beautiful days here and I spent them outside from morning to nightfall alas the cold is returning. It was enough though to buy me that boost in mood that will hold me over through the next few weeks until I can be outside every day. I hope things warm up for you soon too, Sue.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That sounded one of the better Zoo’s 🙂 a little like the Safari parks here on large expanses of land.. Good to know you got out in the milder weather.. today looks set for a brighter day, so the washing can get hung out to dry between showers. And we are also set for a colder spell too.. Warnings have gone out to hill sheep farmers lambing we could be in for snow.. Keep warm and glad you got a boost.. Mother Nature sure does that 🙂 xxx

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        • Very similar, Sue, although one must walk the entire 64 acre zoo not drive through it and so you can’t get up close to the animals like you could in a car.

          I hope your cold snap doesn’t harm any of the sheep lambing. Our cold snap so far hasn’t been as cold as anticipated but we around here don’t get our hopes up that the cold or snow is over until after St Patrick’s day which is March 17th. Any snow after March 17th just seems to make us angry. 🙂

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          • I keep telling you, Sue, you don’t have to apologize to me. I know the value of time away from computers and other forms of technology and make sure I get my breaks as well. Yes, it’s funny how we get through things we don’t like. We look forward to Groundhog Day (feb 2nd) as the sign that we are more than halfway through winter but then set another date after which we don’t even pretend to be patient. 🙂

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  3. My nephew is a zoo keeper, well trained, and I have seen and heard him tell about the treatment his animals get. Currently, he is working with primates. At least, in his case the animals are well cared for with medical care, good diets complete with treats and special meals. Besides the very balanced nutrition they get from the kitchen, he fixes dishes for them like spicy beans which they really like. They have lots of enrichment activities that match the animals behavior in the wild and have a close relationship with their keepers. They are also very careful about when the animals are on display. If the animal is having any kind of adjustment problem, they are not out. They also have ways to go inside anytime they want. While it is not a natural setting, most animals live a much longer life in the zoo than they do in the wild and have much less stress because they are protected from predators. Also,most animals in the zoos these days were born there. Usually, it’s only animals that have been injured in the wild that wind up in nature centers and zoos because they would not be able to survive in the wild.

    So, I don’t believe all zoos are bad and all zoo animals are depressed. However, zoos have come a long way in the last decade or so (most have no cages), but there may be some that have not adopted current practices with the animals. Those definitely bother me.

    While I’m anxious to get outside more, it’s still cold and I don’t like it. I know what you mean about the indoor activities getting old. I have plenty to do, but I’m not that interested in them. This weekend is supposed to warm. We’ll see.

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    • You are right, not all zoos are bad. The one I lived closest to most of my life is still very much run the old way. It’s landlocked so not enough room to expand and the animals are caged in small cages. The elephant has a cage just big enough to stand in, I’m not sure if he could even turn around if he tried. The elephant has an outdoor space they back him into but even that is small. He can turn around but it’s not large enough for him to walk more than a foot or two in any direction. All the primates are indoors in cement enclosures as well and only the gorilla has a view to the outside.

      Now I did visit the Albuquerque NM zoo and loved it. The place is huge and the animals have large outdoor natural habitats. Picture Jurassic Park’s, the movie, zones for each dinosaur. The downside is half or more of the animals were back in their habitat and not visible to guests. We didn’t mind. My boys were elementary aged so they had fun trying to spot the animals and the park-like trails through the zoo provided a nice hike for us.

      Exactly! I still have plenty to do but I’m bored with them and have had a hard time making myself do any of them.

      I hope things warm up for you soon. We just had a beautiful couple of days. yesterday it was 65! I spent the entire time outside and even took a walk. 🙂 The sunshine and warm temperatures have lifted my mood and even though it’s going to get cold again I’m not, at the moment, feeling trapped like I do with the first cold snap. I know it’s only a matter of time now until my cage doors will be open. 🙂

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  4. Ha! I was just about to write a post with a similar title, only much whinier with less real things to say. You see, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous here in Denver for the past few weeks. Today we’re having record setting warmth in the low 70’s – though the wind is blowing something fierce. But am I happy? Alas, here I sit – day 8 of the flu. At least I’ve been able to have the windows open but honestly, it just feels a bit like a cruel joke. I think I need the waaaambulance! 😦

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      • Thanks June, It hasn’t actually been as horrible as it sounds. I got a flu shot back in October so I think it may have blunted some of the symptoms. I mean, it still sucks, but at least it’s been 8 days if being mildly sick (mostly just body aches and swollen glands) instead of 8 days of sicker than a dog! I’m grasping wildly to find positives here… 🙂

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    • I’m so sorry you’ve been sick. I hope you’re feeling better now. Don’t let my post sway you from posting what you planned.

      We just had two days in the 60s! We’ve had the wind same as you, but that’s okay as the wind sped up the melting of the last of the snow.I spent every minute outside not willing to miss a moment of it.

      I had my granddaughter overnight Friday-Saturday. Friday night as I was putting her to bed she asked me not to forget to charge my chair, being as I still had more than half a charge I asked why she wanted me to charge the chair, she said it was so we could take a walk. First thing in the morning she ran out to the swing set in the yard and spent a good half hour just on the swing smiling from ear to ear then we had to take our walk. She carried a chair out into the yard too and the only time she came inside was to potty or get food. It’s obviously not just us adults who get bored with winter.

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  5. I so understand your lack of love for winter, Lois. We have such a mild winter that unless the wind is blowing gales or the rain is coming down buckets, (rarely) we can get outside to do things. I remember winters in the snow and ice but then I could drive and had my monster truck to get around if necessary. But most of our residents were snow birds and gone so it was just me and him.:( I’d be nuts from the confinement too and am definitely on the verge since I can’t drive now. Spring bulbs are all coming up but we had 35 degrees last night. Heater has been running all day again. 😦 With your mobility issues, winter is not something to relish. Like the kids, you want to get some fresh air.
    I can’t make myself go to zoo’s The scene I’d make bawling my eyes out would be reason for expulsion from the premises. My son wanted to go to ours as they had just built a grand new habitat for the elephants. I opted out. I feel like we are all living in our little boxes lined up along the road like the homeless camps. Not sure what would make it better. Maybe more than 2 feet between houses. Spring is going to be early but I don’t think it will be kind. You may be in a protected valley where you are. East coast is getting hammered and that will continue. Hang in there. It’s almost over.

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    • Marlene, I attempted to move away from Pennsylvania several times but never felt at home in most of the places I tried out. I missed our seasons, minus winter, and yes even the fresh water waterways we have here. So I came back and vowed to put up with winter to experience the remaining seasons. I know I’m pathetic. 🙂 The last time I returned my boys had moved out to start their lives as adults and I figured being on my own I could at least stay in on the worst days as I wouldn’t have to run the boys to events. But the cold is starting to really get to me and leaves me hurting. I can’t imagine moving away, leaving my family to seek out a warmer climate, plus I don’t know how I would manage everything if I didn’t have the occasional help I have here.

      I know exactly how you feel about the zoos. When I’ve gone I feel distant from the rest of the crowd. I end up observing the people too and wondering how they can enjoy seeing the animals in their tiny enclosures and not feel the pain I feel. Now if you are ever in Albuquerque, NM and have lots of energy check out their zoo. It’s amazing. The animals have wide open spaces, I tried to follow the fencing to see how big the habitats were but couldn’t see that far. The zoo is called the BioPark and consists of the zoo, an aquarium, botanical garden and a beach. The zoo covers 64 square miles! Here’s more information on the BioPark if you are interested. And here is a picture of one of the habitats

      albuquerque zo

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      • My daughter lived in Albuquerque for 8 years and we never went to the zoo when I visited. Of course when I was there, it was always for some crisis or other. I had often thought of settling there but she didn’t like it. I think the ex-husband had a lot to do with that. Bad memories and all. I know what you mean about dealing with the weather to be close to family. It’s the most important thing you can do. Just keep the room you are in warm enough not to hurt. I wear lots of layers, heavy socks and slippers and keep the den warmer than the rest of the house. Don’t need heat under the covers at night. I’m here because my sister and daughter are here. Now my son too. It can rain everyday (it doesn’t) and I’ll stay close to family. Spring is almost here. 🙂

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        • I loved Albuquerque and the surrounding area there was so much to do as a young single mother that didn’t cost and arm and leg. The cultural attractions were my favorite having come from an area that doesn’t have much diversity it was perfect for teaching my children.

          Yes, I would love to live where there wasn’t a cold winter but having not found the right place I’ll stay here to be by my family as they are more important to me than anything else.

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  6. Well my take on this ‘winter’ issues is different, but I understand your position. I have always been a winter person, loving all the things about it – including being encapsulated in my home for months. This year, however, the cold has been a problem. I get cold and I can’t seem to warm up until I stand in the shower and let the heat enter my core. I have lots to keep me busy but the cold is becoming a problem. I sincerely enjoy the changing seasons. All of them but summer is my least favorite – at least until this year. Who knows what this aging body will decide in future years. I used to think I could live in Alaska. Now I am not so sure.

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    • Elaine, I envy those who can enjoy winter and am very sorry you have had a hard time of it this year. I worried about my one daughter-in-law moving here from Arizona, where she was born and raised, but she took to the cold like a native. Me, every year the pain from the cold seems to get worse just like you experienced this year. The only time I feel warm is when I first wake up in the morning but that makes forcing myself out of bed so hard because I know I’ll be cold and hurting within minutes. Unfortunately the shower no longer helps me. I cant’ close the bathroom door with the wheel chair so the warmth of the water evaporates and I end up shivering through the shower.

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  7. I don’t so much feel caged as I do just depressed. I would gladly curl up on my couch with my TV, a basket of yarn and unlimited snacks. But then there is guilt over what’s not getting done and weight gain. Basically, I hate winter!

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    • I’m sorry you suffer so in the winter, Cindy. I was purposely trying to avoid the word depression as I wrote because while I suffer from SAD, the depression I feel is so minor compared to what those who truly suffer from clinical depression feel. My winter activities are pretty sedentary so as spring arrives I always have to rebuild my strength back up. There is no substitute for real work when it comes to keeping the body fit. Winter is too long to keep myself content with books and crafts. At first it’s nice to have a day to do nothing but them but then the novelty wears off.

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  8. I used to love zoos as a child, as we all do, but as an adult I won’t go anywhere near a place that has caged animals. It breaks my heart.
    You and I have discussed our struggles with winters before 🙂 There has only been one winter, a couple of years ago, which I actually really enjoyed but I also had a huge pile of art and craft going on, I sat by the fire and really did feel I was ok, I gave myself permission to holiday inside. Last winter was miserable again and I was just hopeless. I certainly benefited by accepting and planning for it, giving myself the attitude of making the most of it.

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    • I know all the reasons a zoo is considered good but no, I don’t enjoy the majority of them because I can’t handle to see animals caged. I wish I were one of those people who truly loved winter as much as the other seasons but I never have. I always have plans but rarely do my plans alleviate the problems. I think if money and conscience were not an issue I would crank up the heat so it felt like summer inside and them maybe I would do better. There was one year I supplemented with a kerosene heater when we were having problems with the furnace. The heater overheated the rooms because our home was so small and we would have to turn it off but that winter was amazing. I didn’t hurt and was so productive inside that winter. I think today the problem is that every winter is one I am indoors for now that I don’t own a car nor do I have a family which required appointments and such. I know before winter arrives that I’ll be indoors and nothing will be new from one winter to the next.

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      • I don’t know what I would do without a car, particularly in Winter. It would drive me nuts. We are fortunate to have the log fire, I detest being cold. This year we have yet to buy our winter wood for lack of money so not sure it’s going to be a very nice one. We have wood cut down from our own trees here but it won’t go far really. I dislike using heaters so not sure how we will manage yet – it certainly makes a difference between comfort and misery. You will be nearly at Spring and you will welcome that 🙂

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        • Having a car in the winter would be useless for me now. Trying to get out to the car through snow I’d probably get stuck. 🙂 A wood stove is on my list but has to wait until I get a few other things done first around here I know I’ll do better when I can have a fire going to keep the house warmer. I do hope things turn around for you and you find the money for your wood, or Roger finds free trees he can cut up to use. 🙂

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          • How nice not to have snow. 🙂 I wish I could snap my fingers and have my little pocket of the state be snow free every year but at least I’ve moved out of the snow belt. Where I’d lived for most of the last 26 years they had 200-300 inches of snow per year. Here the annual average is only 49 inches. Maybe one of these days I’ll get just far enough south to see snow free winters but I doubt it.

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  9. Lois, you might like a book to read with your grand children. We just got it at the library & my 7-yr-old grandson loved it and asked me to look for others that might be about the same characters. i think it might be a one-of-a-kind book! It is about two animals who lived in a ‘cageless zoo’, but wanted to see the world. Sparky is a turtle “who likes to stay inside his shell”, Joe is a giraffe “who likes to stretch his neck & see the world”. After all their adventures outside the zoo, they decided that home was best. A sweet & funny story. “Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels” by Jamie Michalak. published 2009.

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    • I think the children would love that story. I’ve written down the title and author and will see if I can find it. Thank you for the suggestion!!

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