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Hibernation is a fancy word in English for “winter sleep”. In Japanese, you use the word, “toumin”. It is a time of the winter when many animals go into a hole in the earth and they sleep. Hibernation is a very interesting process and it occurs when an animal becomes inactive, or “sleeps,” during the shorter, cold days of winter. Hibernating animals include bears, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, bats, frogs, toads, turtles, lizards, snakes, snail, fish, shrimp, and even some insects hibernate during the winter.

To prepare for hibernation, many animals eat to gain weight in the summer and fall. The extra fat keeps them alive during the winter. A black bear can gain up to 15 kilos a week just before it sleeps all winter. During hibernation, the heart rate for many animals slows to less than 10 beats per minute. Breathing also slows.

It is amazing what animals can do when they sleep through the winter time. It is incredible how much they can change their bodies so that they will be okay until spring comes again. For many animals in the ice covered places in Canada their bodies come close to a near-death condition.

Hibernation is maybe something that we also do as humans. Of course we do not increase our weight by 15 kilos and sleep under a kotatsu until springtime, but maybe our minds and hearts are a little like the bears and frogs and squirrels that are quiet in the cold weeks of winter. When we are cold we move a little slower. When there is snow or ice on the roads we ride our bicycles and drive our cars a little slower. When it is cold in the morning we are very slow to get out of our warm beds to start the day.

But spring is coming. We can feel the warmer wind coming. The air is not as cold as it was a few weeks ago. There are signs that things are changing and that winter is going away soon. The ground is not frozen and maybe soon we will see the animals come out and meet the new season.

The time is coming for you and me to get back to work and back to study. Spring is a time of the year that pushes us to be faster. Spring is the time to make us study harder and to work longer. Spring gives us energy. It gives us life, and hope, and the clean fresh energy of new dreams and hope.

So, wake up. Get up. Shake your head. Stretch your arms up to the sky. Breathe deep and feel the air of spring fill your heart and mind. We are in the final part of the school year and there is much to do, and much to learn. There is a lot of study to do of course, but there is also precious time to be spent with our friends too. Our time for hibernation is finished, and the promise of new life in spring is for you and for me.