The Storm

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I was told it didn’t snow on the island. 

I was assured when looking at a house on the side of a mountain it did not snow on the island. 

“The Caribbean of Canada,” I was told over and over again. 

What I have since learned is that when a Canadian tells you it doesn’t snow they mean it doesn’t snow every day. For a Canadian no snow means some days it will not snow.

I did not understand that translation. 

I had no idea how to prepare. It wasn’t just snow coming, but a massive storm to swallow the island. 

There was talk of supplies and water, oil lamps. 

Thoughts travelled back to Uganda and all of my fears of not having access to help if needed. And here I was about to be snowed in, with no way down the mountain, all ferries stopped, seaplanes locked down, no way out, and no way in.  Completely at the mercy of nature. 

Completely and utterly alone. 

The snow started to fall at night. 

I woke when power was lost, complete darkness in the too early morning. Cold from the lost heat, I crawled out of bed and got the fire going, pulled out my mortar and pestle and woke the kids with marble on marble grinding coffee beans by hand. 

I cooked my first breakfast on a wood stove and settled the kids with full bellies in front of a stack of books, lit only by glorious firelight, and went out into the storm. I needed wood, lots more wood. 

Load after load I moved logs from one end of the house to the other, a foot of snow eating each step. 

All I could think was please God let us not need help because none can come in this storm. 

There was a sharp pain as a sliver of wood slid beneath my fingernail. I came inside and tried to get it out but it was too embedded. The pain shot up my hand. 

The day continued, the snow kept falling.

We cooked lunch and dinner by fire. 

I watched the battery bars on the phone get less and less, our only connection to the outside world, until the last bar disappeared. 

The snow kept falling.

We played games.

We talked.

We watched the snow falling. 

It was night now and so silent and dark without any lights anywhere, no sound from anything, not even a hum. It was otherworldly and powerful and I felt so unbelievably vulnerable, and in awe. Here I was, completely snowed in with my 2 children, unable to rely on anything but my strength to get us through.

I looked down and my finger was quite red and swollen. I knew I had to get the splinter out before infection set in. And I knew there was no way off this mountain for days. 

So I took a flashlight into the bathroom, took a pair of tweezers, and by a thin beam of light took my fingernail off, piece by piece. 

That was the moment. The moment when I realized I was strong enough. 

We didn’t need to be saved. We didn’t need help. I had us just fine. 

I turned the flashlight off and walked back out into the dark snow covered house a very different woman, into a very different way of living. 

 

“Our whole lives were like that: 
run into the leaves, a black
autumn descends, 
run in your apron of leaves and a belt of gold metal
while the mist of the station house rusts on the stones.
Fly in your stockings and shoes
through the graying divisions, on the void of your feet, with 
    hands that the savage tobacco might hallow,
batter the stairs and demolish 
the seals that defend all the doors with black paper;
enter the pith of the sun, the rage of a day full of daggers,
and hurl yourself into your grief like a dove, like snow on the 
     dead…”—Pablo Neruda