Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Severe Weather

I tap the digits of the long-distance number and wait, half listening, for the point in the menu where I can press 4 for our region and 3 for our forecast. My mind tunes out the random clip advertising other services, but the echo of that voice returns at moments through the day: "Winter Severe Weather..."

In this land, this week,
severe weather is a violent stillness
creeping inward to the places where life
curling protectively around its own spark
waiting, hoping to last
until rescue.

Lasting until rescue, and knowing some will not, is a grim reality of life in this land. Small wonder that Connie Kaldor sings, "I come from a land that is harsh and unforgiving..." and tells the story of one who "tried to walk and froze to death, fifty feet from town." Sometimes summer too drains life away: again Connie sings of those still standing, stony faced with survivor guilt, "hoping to hold on so you don't end up like the neighbours: him and her, they're weeping as the auctioneer yells."

In a gentler song of springtime, Ian Tyson recalls the names of his neighbours and their ranches, where each in turn is pictured "pulling calves," helping with the birthing and rejoicing that they "made it through another on the northern range." In the last line of the song, though, he brings to mind the name of one more rancher, one who has pulled calves for the last time: "Gid's in the country where the tall grass grows..."


Tim Hodgens said...


Now you got me scared for you. How cold is it "up there?" and for how long? Is your immediate situation workable?

Here in Central Massachusetts, we are recovering from a terrific ice storm which shut down power to ~ 300,000 homes and businesses. Now it's "only" 50,000 in Mass who are shivering. But overall we were "fortunate" in the sense that the rain stopped, the temperatures rose and the roads were mostly passable within a day. New Hampshire is worse off.

Do you get the feeling that we are seeing more black swans these days.

BTW, I just finished Fifty Degrees Below, the second in a trilogy on climate change. The first was 30 Signs of Rain. Both very good reads.

Keep me / us posted.


arcolaura said...

Thanks for your concern, Tim, but this is just an emotional response to the first cold snap of the winter. Nothing unusually alarming. But it brings to mind how vulnerable we are, when the high temperatures are running about -25C or colder and with a wind it feels like -43C. Our heat is dependent not only on natural gas to feed the furnace, but electricity to operate it. Our house might still function after a fashion without those, if we filled it up with people and improvised some shutters to reduce the heat loss from the large south windows at nights. Otherwise we would probably "flee to the hills" and hole up with my parents where there is a wood stove and a measure of independence. I want to get a wood stove for this house too.

More black swans? Yes. Some have been visible for some time, at least to those willing to look, but I would agree that there appears to be a flock gathering.

I hope you and yours are keeping warm. That thought brings up a little twinge of guilt as I wonder - am I wishing the worst of it to fall on strangers rather than on those I know?

arcolaura said...

Oh, and "waiting for rescue" was just a poetic way of saying that we are dependent on some outside change to get us through, even if it's only the return of warmer temperatures... sorry to worry you there.

Paul said...

Laura, I feel the emotional tug of the lyrics but also a sense of challenge and gratefulness for being alive in an uncertain world. Security scares me more than uncertainty. I like a degree of struggle, challenge and hardship. They make me feel truly alive.

We installed a wood stove this fall and cut enough wood to have some to share if needed -- a wonderful feeling.

arcolaura said...

Paul - yes! Feeling alive. Exactly.

Jim said...

A solemn winter post that I can relate to in my Scandinavian heart & soul, where the cold darkness of the short days lurks to prey upon my mood.

But now the days begin to grow longer as seed catalogs arrive in the mail and Madcap returns to the fold!

That latter momentous event instilling in me a childlike exuberance that had to bubble over somewhere, so why not here?

Why not here, where an old friend posts such a lovely winter poem.

"In this land, this week,
severe weather is a violent stillness

creeping inward to the places where life

curling protectively around its own spark
waiting, hoping to last
until rescue."

Much love to you and yours as the new year unfolds Laura.

arcolaura said...

And much love to you and yours also, Jim - thank you.