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Jane Austen

Jane Austen

I had the nerve to wonder what life might’ve been like half a century ago in a certain home and didn’t the Universe just show me?! It was really just a romantic musing, not a request. Never again will I look back wistfully at life 200 years ago. I had a dose of no electricity or water for 2 ½ days and I folded like a wet origami crane. Well, not really. We were just so unprepared.

The first day, the day of Ophelia, was sort of “fun” because we were all still full of juice. Our bodies had had plenty to eat and drink and our phones and computers were all pretty charged up. But as the next day dawned, all of that changed. I hadn’t slept well because I was worried about Allen’s status. Did he get out, did he not? No word. No service.

I went over to the school around 8:00, dressed in my whites because we’d been given the word that school would be on. Of course, it was dark and cold inside and only two of our teachers, Mags and Tiffin, had arrived and had as much idea of the plan as I did.

ventually, it was decided we’d have class at 9:30 and they went into high gear trying to arrange the day, given the challenges. None of us had had anything to eat or drink since the night before and we were all very cold. Ophelia had dragged winter weather kicking and screaming with her and dropped it on top of us.

The school called our Wine Guy, Colm McCan, got him out of bed and asked him to come give his lecture a day early. Which he did, armed with 12 bottles of wine. So, at around 10:30, we were talking about the Champagne region of France and southern England and how alike they are in their chalky soil. Think, Cliffs of Dover. Naturally, Colm had an example of a sparkling wine from a small grower from that region in England for us to taste. I thought, “only here, would we have lived through a freak hurricane and have no water, heat or electricity, but we do have high-end wines to sip and sample.” So, it wasn’t water, tea or coffee we first had to reinforce us that morning, it was English sparkling wine. Things really could’ve been a lot worse. ;)

 Ambrosia to the parched.

Ambrosia to the parched.

When lunchtime rolled around, we were treated to an example of what the pros do when shit gets real. Whatever stores they had in the freezers, they pulled out and got it heating on the, thankfully, gas stovetops. The pizza oven was lit and soda breads were quickly mixed up and baked in it. Tiffin was cutting, buttering and jamming all the slices as quickly as they came out of the oven and we hungrily gobbled it all down. They provided a beautiful lunch for us in the worst of conditions and made it look so easy. Also, they did it with such grace and aplomb.

For the afternoon class, they rigged a light in the demo room so we could at least see Darina, as the natural light waned. It had turned out to be a clear day so when class was over, I sprinted to our cottage to get money and my backpack and headed for the shop in Shanagarry, ¾ of a mile away. I was on a mission to buy all the water I could carry because they were saying it could be Friday before we got power and water was still an issue. I hadn’t showered since Sunday and intended to wash my hair and my body before the sun went down. I was like a beast of burden, carrying 14 liters of water on my back and in my hands.

That water was so cold I thought I had given my head frostbite, as I finished rinsing it in the sink. Since our bathroom doesn’t have a tub, all I could do was a PTA bath but it sufficed. Who wants to sit in ice-cold water anyway?  Hallelujah, I was clean!

Arden had bought some candles in the school shop earlier so we’d have light to see and work by. Thank goodness because, by now, it was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I had two enormous packets to file and did it by candlelight. My bed was my desk and by the time I finished, I was freezing. I quickly got ready for bed, pulled my wool blanket over the bed, crawled in and read about wine. I slept like a baby under all those covers and in that cold, cold room.

This morning, I had two matches left and lit my candle and got dressed. With my candle, I lit the stove and boiled water for tea. I was the only one up in our house and it was so peaceful watching the dawn rise with a hot cup in my hands. People started coming in from the other houses, asking to heat their porridge, water, etc so my reverie didn’t last long but it was replaced with the good feelings of sharing resources and knowing you’re not alone.

Demo all morning was hard to bear. The room was freezing and we had one spotlight rigged so Darina would be able to see what she was doing. The girl who sits next to me was all wrapped up in a headscarf and thick coat and had brought her wool blanket for her lap. She gave me half to put on my lap. It made a huge difference. By early afternoon, our power came back on to cheers from us all. It went off and came back on three more times. I began to feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs. At this writing, 10:28 pm, Wednesday night, it’s still on. We have heat, water and electricity but no “broadband” yet. Instead of lights, Arden wanted us to have candles lit in our room tonight. That’s something I did enjoy from this experience, the soft light from the candles and I’ve come to associate the quiet that accompanies no electrons with candlelight.

I imagine Jane Austen didn’t think her life was so bad, because it was what she knew. Quite to the contrary, she was weaned into that way of life and clearly loved her life. Being thrown into it from our world made me feel so vulnerable and we simply are ill equipped to handle it. I’d say we did our best. No one complained or lost their cool. We’re all self-sufficient types and banded together. But it sure has made me think. One of Darina’s books is called Forgotten Skills. I’m going to pick up a copy.

PS for those who are unfamiliar with PTA, it stands for pits, tits and ass. 😉

 

 

 

 

Mary Stuart

Mary Stuart

The Big Wind

The Big Wind