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Ah Hear That Storm A-Comin’ …

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

The storm approacheth, a bit like a freight train.

For about 18
hours, our TV and radio stations have been warning us of a huge storm
on its way, headed directly for us. Already, this morning, we are
hearing of big snow falling to the west of us and down in the Niagara

I don't understand. If we know it is coming and
approximately when it will hit – this afternoon, apparently – why
aren't we closing schools now as opposed to trying to send everyone
home in a mad and dangerous scramble later today?

OK – I admit
it. This question comes from the place in me that would like to not
have to drive up to campus and teach this afternoon, knowing that I
will have to drive home confronted by high winds, low visibility, and
lunatics who appear to have never driven in winter conditions before in
their lives.

A good winter blast is such a nostalgia trip for
me. Time seems to change in the quality of its passage when we are
restricted from normal activity and forced to sit home alone, with
candles, fireplaces and perhaps a good book. When I was growing up,
there would be one or more such storms each year. Our power would go
out and all 12 of us would huddle around our huge wood stove, which was
actually a cooking stove as much as a heating stove. Sometimes there
would be more than 12 as some of our neighbours would, for one reason
or another, not have some alternative source of heating. Mom had a few
standard wood stove recipes that became so evocative of being snowed
in: a meaty chili … stews … casseroles. Baked potatos.

remember reading the entirety of my mother's copy of Swiss Family
Robinson by kerosene lamp during one such storm.  The perfect winter
storm book as a person slips a few emotional notches towards
"survivalist" during such storms. I still have that ancient-looking,
cloth-bound text, published early in the 20th Century. Maybe I'll get a
chance to read it again in the next few days!

With the
electricity off, our water pumps would no longer function. We would
need to draw water from the well just outside our back door, using a
primitive, jury-rigged system of ropes and pulleys. This was the
coldest damn job ever as one would have to do it in the midst of
blizzard conditions, often with gale force winds … and there is
nothing colder than well water splashed onto woollen mittens in those
circumstances. Our water was of terrific quality so you could drink it
right from the well. I also learned, from a young age, the trick of
flushing the toilet with a bucket of water. We didn't use well water
for this. My brothers and I were recruited to fetch pails of snow to be
brought inside and left to melt in the bathroom for this specific use.

house was once described as a "drafty old barn of a place". Yes, it
was. This was not a modern R-2000 home. The chinks in the brick work
were numerous and I knew just where they were and how to position my
legs when sitting still so as to not be bothered by a draft. We had to
be careful of pipes freezing when the wind would blow from certain
directions. My bedroom was just above the legendary wood stove – lucky
me! I got some heat for part of the night when it was on. Storm or no,
I was used to waking up to a freezing cold bedroom and to having a tiny
snowdrift in my window sill. I learned the trick of grabbing my clothes
for the day and running down two sets of stairs to the basement,
putting them in the dryer for 10 minutes to warm them up.

today I sit in my modern, non-drafty downtown condo and contemplate the
approaching storm. Other than the driving problem, it lacks a certain
fear factor. When asking for add-ons when the condo was built, I
expressly asked for a gas stove and a gas fireplace. Yes, these are
nice things to have at anytime but I've learned a bit about alternative
heat sources in the winter. I may even fetch in a few buckets of snow
and let them melt, just for old times sake. You'll rarely find me
without a supply of water, canned goods and candles.  Or my copy of
Swiss Family Robinson.

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