Cocooning, a much kinder word

Lake Maria State Park - cocooning breakout

Staring outside at a sky that stares coldly back, wintertime claustrophobia and reclusiveness seep into my bones. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, flipping the switch and renaming this cocooning time, a word with a warmer and friendlier feel. However, neither butterfly nor human wants to remain in a cocoon for too long.

I promised myself at the beginning of December that I would take one day a week to break out of my usual routine. I’d initially thought I’d visit a different state park each week to hike with my dog, Latte. On December 1, Latte and I visited Lake Maria State Park. We didn’t leave home until 9:30 AM because every time I tried to leave, I remembered something else I needed and had to run back into the house to retrieve it. Even so, I forgot my water, but did remember my coffee. Shows where my priorities are… 

At Lake Maria State Park, there were no grand views: no mountains, jutting rock walls, crashing waves, or babbling brooks. It was mainly acres of oak trees, along with a few clusters of birch, standing tall and thin in ghostly elegance. 

Dog amidst oak trees

We didn’t even see Lake Maria, which may have been something worthy of an ooh ah, but probably not, given the rest of the landscape. By the time I saw a trail sign pointing the way to the lake, I’d been walking around for ninety minutes and was wondering how to get back to my car. Thank goodness for Google Maps, as it showed me where I had parked (come to think of it, that’s a little creepy). 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my walk through the woods a great deal. Exploring a new place was just what I needed. And the underlying chance of getting lost is part of the thrill. I could only hope that I would lose whatever was ailing me as well. 

Tree stump upturned

The true highlight of the trip, however, was that I got to try out my pee funnel! Twice! I haven’t figured out yet how to prevent my porta potty water from freezing, so I had to take the leap of peeing into a jar. Additional vistas have opened before me! Picture me standing on a high rock, overlooking a valley, fist pumping the air as I conquer bathroom challenges! I’m not exaggerating. I have actual nightmares about not being able to find a bathroom, so this is heady stuff.

I’m not sure where I’ll go this week. Our weather is on the iffy side, with temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit if you add the windchill. I’m leaning towards a county park, closer to home, which would still fit the criteria of walking somewhere other than our usual route. 

Additional Cocooning Breakout Tactics

Besides purposefully exploring new places, there are a other things I’m trying in December to change my usual routines:

Studying Norwegian

Hvordan hjelper dette? How does this help? Learning Norwegian allows me to partake in fantasy travel, fake conversations with Norwegians, and cranial pushups. I’m using the Duolingo application (which is convenient and quick, but not very effective, in my opinion). So I’m topping that off with a free Norwegian course offered through the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The NTNU course goes more in depth, which makes it more effective but harder to find the time to do. The combination of convenient but silly, with effective but hard, is working for me. 

Going Holiday Gift Shopping

Did you know that some people actually enjoy shopping? I’m not one of them, but sometimes I desperately need something that isn’t easily purchased online—you know, the stuff where you need to feel the texture, check the color off-screen, and feel the weight of it in your hand. I’m gearing myself up with meditation and aerobics to prepare for a trip to an art store and outdoor clothing store.

Recuperating from Cocooning Breakout Tactics

Brewing Tea. 

Tea leaf blend

Besides the warming benefit of a cup of hot tea, the process of selecting the herbs I want to use and brewing the tea relaxes me. My most recent tea blend is one I found in Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs book called Heartease Tea, which is prepared as an infusion and said to be good for grief, feelings of loss, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Plus, it is very tasty. It contains:

  • 2 parts hawthorn* leaf, flower, and berry
  • 1 part green oat top (I used oat straw)
  • 1 part lemon balm leaf
  • 1 part St. John’s wort flower and leaf
  • (optional) sweetener (I added a pinch of stevia leaves to my blend)

*Hawthorn Tree Trivia: The hawthorn tree is a protective being and legends say it keeps vampires away. Too bad it won’t grow in my climate.


The act of gliding a pencil back and forth across the page and seeing an image appear feels like meditation, sprinkled with magic. I’ve been doing portraits of people (and an occasional dog) whose photos I find online.

Challenged by shadows and contours, I look long and hard at variations and make choices. Applying darker layers of pencil intimidates me because once they’re down, they can’t be erased. But I push the pencil, and it feels like an act of bravery. Sometimes I don’t like what I’ve created, but I always like the feeling of taking the risk.

If you are also cocooning by choice or circumstance, is it a good experience for you or something you feel the need to break out of once in a while? I’d love to read in the comments any tricks you have for making the most of these shorter days and long nights.

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  1. Good read, Maery … we feel like we’ve been cocooning for a very long time but we are built for it and enjoy every minute. We don’t do crowds, not much shopping or even going out and we’ve kind of been that way before we were told to. We love our mostly daily walks and feel deprived when we have to miss one.
    Keep up all your great work!

    1. Thanks for you comment Susan! Sorry I didn’t see it sooner. You and I were cut from the same cloth. I feel the same way about shopping and the preference for outdoor spaces.

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