January 08, 2014

Seizing the day an elusive goal

As published in The Erin Advocate

Every time I go to a funeral, I resolve to take more control of my life and live it to the fullest, having been reminded that it may be over on very short notice. 

Within a few days, however, it seems I am back to my regular self, living cautiously and taking things for granted.

Such was the case this holiday season, when went to London to visit my wife's cousin Daryl, who found out in November that he had pancreatic cancer. He died on Christmas Day at the age of 50, leaving a great void in the hearts of his family and friends.

Resurrection seems a long way off, as we struggle to carry on.This was all in the midst of the ice storm, which was a minor inconvenience by comparison.  We had our power restored on the afternoon of Boxing Day, after five days of scrambling to stay warm. Everyone has their stories – some lost power for only a few hours, while others were out for over a week.

I would like to apologize to everyone for the disruption. For the past 29 years, we have had a wood stove in the basement. We haven't used it much in recent winters though, and our insurance company considered it an expensive risk, so a few months ago I took down the chimney and retired it.

While winding up my rechargeable flashlight in a cold, dark kitchen, I had a frightening thought. By disconnecting my stove and failing to buy a generator, maybe I had actually caused the ice storm. It doesn't take much to convert an unfortunate coincidence into a jinx.

Not all of our luck was bad though, since we still have a fireplace in the living room, and we are experienced campers. It's just that it is a lot of work to stay warm and well fed. The thrill of living in pseudo-pioneer style wears off rather quickly.

We did not have a lot of firewood, so I ended up scrounging in the garage. Scrap wood has been piling up there for a few years, and finally I had motivation to cut it up – with a handsaw of course, which provided exercise to keep me warm for a while.

We accepted invitations from people with power (electrical) to come over for dinner (or a shower) and we were not in a big hurry to leave. We'd get home in time to stoke up the fireplace and climb under three layers of blankets on a futon next to the Christmas tree.

Getting up in the morning when the living room temperature was down to 5°C was hard, but that was balmy compared to the office, which was 0°C.

Our back yard was quite a sight – it looked like a small tornado had ripped through our trees, covering the ground with branches and leaving sharp broken sections sticking up towards the sky. It's great for photography, but it looks like I'm going to have to stimulate the economy by buying a larger chainsaw.

Many thanks to the Hydro crews who worked long shifts and gave up family time, and to everyone who reached out to their neighbours to offer help. Nasty weather even creates new social opportunities, bringing together people who might not otherwise have met.

If climate change predictions are correct, we may have these opportunities more frequently in the years to come.

As a final note, I have made only one New Year's resolution. I have cleaned the piles of junk off my desk, and they are going to stay off. Henceforth, the only pieces of paper on the desk will be the ones I need at that very moment.