Wednesday, December 24, 2008

green light

Despite tragedies and snowstorms, we made it. It's Christmas-time, the 24th and 25th of this month, numbers which glow on the calender almost all by themselves, numbers which have a magic look to them when paired with December.

A few days ago, we cut down our tree from the woods and dragged it home over the snow. We set it in a bucket of sandy gravel and added water. We used string to set up guy wires so the tree would stay up, and then we put on lights, ornaments, and tinsel, in that order. None of these adornments are new, except for one ornament that was a present to Mum from a client.

From the 20th to the 23rd, storms hit the Maritimes and didn't let up. There was snow, lots of it, and high winds, and the power went out for many people across the province. Nova Scotia Power worked diligently but still the power took two to three days to come back, so we were extra aware of the shortness of the Solstice sunlight hours. It reminded me of last year, when the power went out for three days, and we realized just how much more work it is to do our normal activities, without electricity!

The first thing I miss is music. I play CDs a lot, and listen to the radio. Thanks to a Christmas present from Grandmaman last year, I now have a wireless radio that you can charge by turning a crank on the side. It's fantastic and I use it all the time, and it comes in handy during a power outage. But still, I miss being able to go to my room, turning on a cozy light, and putting on some music. My basement room feels especially subterranean at night when the power's out, and I'm sitting there trying to write in my journal by the light of three candles!

By the second day, we worry about our freezers, and put blankets on them to keep the cold in. Mum filled two plastic bags with snow and put them inside the freezers to keep things cool. We store a lot of food in those freezers, and during a power outage we're nervous, wondering if we'll have to haul everything outside to the cold, snowy outdoors. The snow-in-bags method was successful, though, and our food survived.

I don't know when this particular thought came to me, although it could have been when I was doing the dishes by candlelight, using water I'd heated on our propane stove. It could also have been while we were playing cribbage (also by candlelight and lamplight), or when I was trying to write in my journal. This is what I realized: without electricity, a lot of things are more difficult, or simply nonexistent. And so the simpler things become more special, and as a result, our holidays take on new meaning. I was thinking especially of the holidays of this season. Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas, each celebrating light, peace and generosity, mean more to me when natural light ends at 4:30 PM and doesn't come back until 7:30 the next morning. Gifts found or made, wrapped and given among friends and family mean more when we're spending our time tending the woodstove, hauling buckets of water for the toilet, heating water for dishes, and generally humbled and hobbled by the lack of power.

Though the power is back on now, and we'll soon forget we ever went without it, I'm going to try and remember the power outage lessons during Christmas, and be especially grateful for the cooked food, the lights on the tree, and the gathered friends.

Merry Christmas to each of you. May you be blessed this Holiday Season.

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