Like most things now, it began as a meme.
Ashleigh Weingarten (@ashashbaby) posted a photo of herself biting a cheat-day cheeseburger and branded it with the caption Getting Ready for Hibernation.
In that way particular to memes and saints (right person, right place, right time, right witness) Ashleigh’s joke caught fire online and the format began spreading around the internet like rumor. People started posting larger and larger meals—nachos and steaks and great tureens of paella—and labeling them with hashtags like HibernationHereWeCome! Mukbang stars took up the challenge with gusto, calling out their friends and trying to top each other back and forth. A sorority in California filled the vases in their common room with foil-wrapped bouquets of burritos, while a broker’s office in Tokyo outlined an entire parking lot with baskets of steaming dumplings.
For hibernation we all laughed! and then suddenly realized we were serious.
The food, after all, was all being eaten. The jokes, after posting, were consumed. Veggie stir fries, and avocado bowls and plate after plate of full English breakfasts were being scarfed down continuously all around the world. Nuns and rabbis and frat boys doing service hours met up in parks to cook barrels full of soup, serving whole warm vats to the needy along with claymore-sized baguettes. Neighborhoods swelled and homes crisscrossed as families began inviting each other for potluck feasting every night.
If bears did it, if trees did it, if we—before the building of cities, before the coming of Henry Ford—had moved more with the seasons, had slept when it got dark, then why not now?
At what point, we asked ourselves, had we decided this was a bad idea?
We became obsessed with all things fatty and deliciously protein-packed, with building the store of calories we’d take with us into the dark. Weight-loss content became entirely the opposite: Hollywood-gorgeous men and women telling their followers how to pack on the pounds.
When the first snow fell, we sighed to each other happily, knowing it was time. It felt good to finally be doing this, to give into the pull of the earth and nature, to reject caffeine and the drive to produce, to finally lay down for a while and at long last take a rest.
The 1% wasn’t especially happy. Gone was their work force, off to bed for the next five months. They yelled about the economy, the stock market, Atlas Shrugged. We hung signs on the factories and slapped each other warmly on the back. We left them out there, yelling, the snow piling, the sky growing black.
We pulled the blinds and burrowed in, put on podcasts and YouTube videos, 4000 hours of rain sounds. We all breathed out together, warm and safe, some already snoring.
We listened to the creaking of the universe.
We dreamed of spring.
Derek Heckman was born in Peoria, Illinois, and holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Montana. His work has been published in Embark Journal, Ellipsis Zine, The Collapsar, and Wigleaf, and was also featured in the anthology “Teacher Voice” from Malarkey Books. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and you can find him on Twitter as @herekdeckman.