Well. My first Maritime snow storm has come and gone, and I’m thankful for both the coming and the going. I have new respect for those who have long lived in this environment, capably, confidently and with such casual attitudes because, for me, it was an eye-opener to say the least. The ferocity of wind (100+kph) in combination with endless snow is quite a trip. In the past I’ve watched lesser but still exciting storms from the comfort of my house surrounded by other houses in a town or city with amenities nearby and thought about those who, for various reasons, have no such comforts. I still wonder how they survive. But I have renewed respect for them because having the power go out at a rural farmhouse in the middle of blinding wind and snow in the middle of nowhere, where roads can easily be impassable for days wakes you up pretty quickly to what’s really important. What I love is the way people here take it in stride, they’ve adapted and there’s power in that. In the days before the storm, when its approach was mentioned on the weather report, it was mostly referred to as a bit of rough weather ahead. “It’ll be a mess,” one reporter said, “and in 24 hours it’ll be over“, and of course he was right. There is no hysteria, no hand-wringing, the radio plays local tunes not storm watch reports and people know how to prepare. Meals are made ahead to freeze, bathtubs filled with water, storm chips purchased in bulk. Everyone knows where the flashlights, candles and extra blankets are. There is much more of course to the ‘knowing and doing’ and I’m learning. And I’m grateful for that because when it’s over and the world is one stunningly magnificent winter wonderland of pristine snow and all you hear about is the beauty, you realize that’s truer than true. And you are SO grateful for everything you took for granted just 24 hours before. That in itself is worth so much.
Coincidentally, during all this, I was reading Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder, the book made into the film with Frances McDormand. (Both are brilliant in my opinion.) Bruder lived in a van and travelled with the ‘nomads’ for two or three years in order to get the story of this hidden-in-plain-sight segment of society, essentially, and for the most part but not limited to, retired people who have lost all other options and are forced to live full-time, year-round, in their cars, vans, or trailers, moving across the U.S. with the good weather and various ‘nomad’ gatherings where they connect with friends and share valuable info on van-dwelling). Many of these people come to love the simplicity of the lifestyle and become new and better versions of themselves through adversity and finding independence and a sense of power on the other side. Not that it’s considered ideal by anyone, but neither are so many other situations people might find themselves in. This, they rationalize, is simply one choice.
The past few days have found me thinking ever more compassionately about the state of so many lives, Indigenous in remote communities as well as neighbours in towns and cities everywhere, who are trying to survive, literally, every day.
All of which to introduce my next repeat post, written over a decade ago after one of our annual trips to a piece of wilderness in the B.C. hills, where we liked to play at roughing it in the bush. It was definitely fun. And definitely nothing like the real thing.
[Updated January 18th to say… ‘come and go??’… hahaha!] [Apparently Maritime storms don’t ‘come and go’, they just take a wee breather.] [I’m learning.]
The following was originally published September, 2011.
Oh sure, I like a nice hotel, an inn, a B&B, a place with a real toilet and room to shower, but hot water and comfort aside (and I speak for both Thoreau and myself here), there’s really nothing so restorative as a week in the wilderness, under the Milky Way, reading and writing among jittering aspens, searching for the elusive left-handed windshifter and fixing meals to songs about trucks and beer and especiallylittle lady bugs on little yellow blankets…which, regrettably, I can now sing along with…on the only radio station that comes in clearly: Country Something Something FM; nothing so affirming as knowing one can survive on a small amount of fresh, local food, cooked on an open fire made with tinder and twigs and logs collected, sawed by hand (splinters removed with a sewing kit needle); the stars at night, a glass of red, a cup of tea, a handful of stones in an empty Unicorn kidney beans can to shake occasionally (due to bear warnings, not to mention the sight early one a.m. of a big black furry paw pulling at branches on the serviceberry bush outside the door—two metres from the door—of our rented trailer).
Which is exactly why I don’t do tents.
The deer were there too. This year a family of five: mommy deer—not thrilled about our big camper thing but tolerant—who tossed a few as long as you remember who was here first looks our way; twin babies, but for a torn right ear on one, who really really wanted to come closer but I worried mommy deer might have something to say about that so gave my ever-present Unicorn can a little shake (was considering wearing it on a string around my neck); papa stag, who merely followed or led or did whatever he was told to do and seemed mostly concerned with the size of his new antlers, stopping to let us have a good look at them from various angles; there was also another mid-sized adult tagging along, rather unwillingly I thought, which I took to be a visiting aunt. Numbers are significantly down, due, I suspect, to proximity of big black furry paws—only the very brave and the slightly witless linger (and deer aunts who are there under duress, possibly to attend a niece or nephew’s birthday party; all aunts know the best time to visit with nieces and nephews is NOT at birthday parties).
Then there was the bread.
Loaves of it made by a guy with a donkey that turns the grist mill that grinds the flour that is then mixed with fresh mountain spring water, sea salt. Sourdough. Toasted on the fire, buttered, with a slab of jalapeno cheese, slices of fat red onion or made into a pan-fried salami/turkey/romaine sandwich or as accompaniment to red kidney bean soup in chicken broth with chopped coriander, carrots and garlic. We had bread with eggs, bread with fruit, bread salad with yellow tomatoes and garlic bread and green salad with croutons; we had bread with bread and bread with jam and juice and by the end of the week, all that was left of the entire food supply was one tiny crust of donkey milled bread (somehow we’d managed to ration down to the last slice of shallot), which crust I packed and ate on the flight home.
As for the Milky Way—it’s usually directly and conveniently above our campsite but this time the nights were either too cloudy, too bright with the moon, or too windy dark and bear scary. So, like the serendipitous way of the world, today, on returning to emails, we find this amazing time lapse video waiting for us, sent by someone who knew nothing of our starry starry quest.