After the Ice Storm

Hello, friends. We made it! The Ice Storm of 2013 is over and it wasn’t nearly as severe or debilitating as some of us expected. In my neighbourhood, we lost power four times over three days, but never for more than a few hours. Really, it was just enough to give us a taste of pre-electric life before we had to do anything hardcore like melt snow for bath water.

A few observations:

– I am so very grateful to live in a place with strong infrastructure.¬†An ice-laden branch from a neighbour’s tree fell on a power line at 3am, and there was a team out there with a bucket truck just five hours later, fixing everything. On a Sunday morning. The next time I see some Utilities Kingston workers in a coffee shop, I’m going to buy them all drinks.

– I am also deeply grateful for excellent neighbours. An hour after the power went out, we had a call from a neighbour offering us shelter, food, and company. Later that evening, a pair of friends went door-to-door in our area, checking to make sure that everyone was okay and asking if there were any frail or elderly people who needed special help.

– Doing without electricity for a couple of hours at a time was an adventure! There were some logistical considerations (“Let’s try to cook tomorrow’s food before we lose power again.” and “Let’s bathe the children now, so if the power goes out we have enough daylight to finish the job.”) and creeping around with flashlights. I had a shower by candlelight!

– You can’t bend a beam of light. After my delightful shower, I was walking down the hall holding my candles, feeling very adequately lit, when I tripped on a fallen sweater. What I learned: when you hold candles above waist height, anything below knee level is lost in utter darkness. (My friend Violette Malan experienced the first ice storm, in 1997, and she learned this same lesson in the kitchen: on that first evening without power, she had a pile of candles and felt ready to make dinner, but she couldn’t see anything in the kitchen drawers. This, she says, is why old kitchens had open presses (shelves) for utensil storage.)

– Candlelight favours small rooms with low, white ceilings. I now understand why rooms in old houses are so often small: unless people were extravagantly wealthy, they could never have lit them adequately.

– Similarly, reading after dark was an activity for the affluent. Wax candles and books were both very expensive, and you need several candles to read comfortably.

– Much as I love (and am obsessed with) the Victorian era, I am firmly a creature of the present. I love hot water on demand, bright lights, and refrigerators. However, this tiny sample of pre-electric life has made me curious. At some point, I’d like to try an extended unplugged experience. Have any of you tried this?

– Finally, is there anything more beautiful than a world enveloped in a thick layer of ice? Here are some shots from our walk this morning.

Dead flowers on a bush in our garden.

Storm clouds over Lake Ontario, and some very cold-looking pigeons on the beach!

Our local waterfront path

How was your week? Did you get hit with heavy weather? Do tell me! And finally, if you’re celebrating it, Merry Christmas! I hope it’s warm and peaceful, wherever you are.

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6 Responses to “After the Ice Storm”

  1. Kelly says:

    A lot of branches (and some trees) came down in my neighborhood. I think that there’s still cleanup going on, though they won’t be able to do much about the broken trees until spring. All in all, we were pretty lucky- we only lost power twice on the first day, and it’s been alright since. I hear some parts of Toronto are still in the dark.

  2. HJ says:

    There is nothing like a power cut to make one appreciate modern comforts! I’m always surprised at how difficult it is to read, and then I start thinking about how awkward it would be to be a writer by candlelight – how did any of them ever get a book finished? I think one answer is good lamps; they provide much better light than candles. The other thing I think about it how everyone but the rich would be forced to be in the same room, to share heat and light – no going off to one’s own room to read or write in peace!

  3. Leanne says:

    It’s beautiful on our street but there are still large branches falling and the sidewalks are treacherous. I feel so lucky to be warm with well-lit house.

  4. Ginger says:

    15 years ago I was given an oil lamp when I got married. I’ve kept it polished and filled since then for those spring Ontario storms when we lose power! I like that I can make the flame large or small and it’s behind glass when I’m cautiously creeping from room to room. Glad your own power outage was shortlived. On an unrelated note, Congratulations on the cover for Rivals in the City, my 12 year old daughter and I have marked down the month of June to watch for it’s release! :)

  5. MelodyJ says:

    Not much winter weather here yet. Power failures can really show you what you and the people around you are made of. You should get some battery operated lanterns and even some oil lanterns in addition to candles and flashlight. Sometimes when the power goes out for an extended time crews from Canada come down along with crews from other states. The local news interviewed the Canadian crew the last time they came. They said that our power system is structured differently than the Canadian system. They have to learn a whole new way of doing things as they go along.

    The pictures are pretty. Stay warm and safe.

  6. Ying says:

    Glad to hear you’re both fine, Kelly and Leanne! One of the things I appreciated about our recent storm was how our neighbourhood really pulled together. Within an hour of the power going out the first time, we had calls from neighbours, offers of food, etc. It felt great to be part of a community. HJ, I think that image of everyone gathering in the main room is spot-on. It makes me think of Jane Austen specifically, discreetly covering her single page of manuscript while people talked to/at/around her, etc. Ginger and MelodyJ, the oil lanterns are a terrific idea! I shall take your excellent advice. And MelodyJ, I didn’t know that Canadian crews did emergency work in the US. Makes sense!

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