When the bears come out of hibernation, as they will begin doing in the next few weeks, they go through a period called “walking hibernation.” It’s one of the five phases of their annual cycle. They’re still sleepy, functioning at diminished capacity, not eating much (good thing: There’s not much to eat), but getting themselves back into the swing of things.

Sounds like any Monday morning. But they’ve spent up to seven months in deep sleep (OK, a little bit of wakefulness), without eating, drinking or even going to the bathroom.

Who knew that chipmunks, their minute woodland cousins, also hibernate? But their winter experience is a different kind of torpor. They elevate their body temperature every so often, go to the pantry for a snack, hit the bathroom (both Nos. 1 and 2, since inquiring minds will want to know) and put their heads back on their little chipmunk pillows and continue the wait for spring, whenever that is. Their burrows are below the frost line, and they’ve slammed and caulked their front doors tight to keep out the drafts. Somewhere up above them their ursine friends, no doubt dreaming of raspberries, snuggle in their shallow dens. Their body temperature is lowered to 88, and their hearts beat along at a slow rumba tempo, breathing a slow waltz.

Are you a chipmunk or a bear? Are you a small critter that’s spent the winter in a small burrow tunneled deep beneath the frost, with a fortified pantry? Or are you a big critter with a thick coat that’s spent the winter in a shallow den you dug in September, enjoying a deep slumber? Did your winter sustenance come from summer and fall gorging, or careful storage and stockpiling for periodic snacking? And now that you’re back above ground, what kind of walking hibernator are you? Starting to feel like yourself again – like Tuesday, or Wednesday?

Or perhaps you identify more with this past week’s flock of errant robins, who showed up a little early for spring only to be clobbered by a bear of a late snowstorm.

“I know I got the coordinates right!” muttered the lead robin. “It’s not supposed to be like this!” Sound familiar? It’s enough to make you head back to your burrow. Wake me when it’s over! I’m going back to my own dreams of blueberries and pie … and stocking the pantry with a summer garden’s bounty.

Are we there yet?

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