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Thursday, January 24, 2013

In a power outage, hunker down.

Last Sunday we had a blackout – or a whiteout, depending on where you were. The winds began around midnight and continued blowing throughout the night, gathering strength. Early in the morning a wall of snow blew past the house, completely blocking sight beyond the porch. Then the snow cleared and the sun broke through the clouds. But still the winds blew.

First the wind came from the North-west, up the pasture, to hit the house at the back porch, rattling the sunblinds where they were rolled up against the windows. Then the wind changed direction and it came from the East, smacking the awning against the house. Every loose flap and board on the house flew up and slammed back down, making quite a ruckus. The sheepdog started barking and the cats went into hiding.

Then, shortly after noon, the power went out. The sun was still shining, so we stoked the fire in the woodstove and settled in with the last of the hot coffee and our oft-neglected paperbacks on the couch. I thought, this is my way to spend a Sunday. As the hours went on, it became increasingly apparent that we would not be able to properly clean the house and prepare a full meal for our dozen-or-so Sunday dinner guests. I picked up the cell phone and called to cancel our guests driving out from Ottawa. “Oh don’t worry; we aren’t coming!” said my father-in-law, who informed me that a blizzard had completely overtaken Ottawa. News briefs on my Blackberry from Ottawa Police reported road closures on the west, south and east of the city due to poor visibility, ice and numerous collisions. They even closed the 417. At our house, the sun shone, and the wind stopped. But the power was out. So we cancelled Sunday dinner. We never cancel Sunday dinner.

The afternoon stretched ahead of us. What to do? I took advantage of the sunshine to sweep and Swiffer the floors, and the Farmer put a pot of bottled water on the woodstove for tea. I nibbled on bean salad, bell peppers and hummus for lunch. And I made a salami-and-cheese sandwich on rye for my husband. We were quite comfy in front of the wood stove, and tucked back into our books.

It occurred to me that we need a radio that runs on batteries for times like these. I would have liked to hear the news. But when she finally woke up from her long winter’s nap, our daughter created a wi-fi hotspot with her cell phone and plugged it into her laptop so we could check out the Hydro One site. Power outages were marked all over Eastern and Southern Ontario, in scattered pockets. Merrickville was on, but Kemptville and Oxford Mills were out. Oxford Station was on, but Spencerville was out. Our skies were clear, but Kemptville was in white out and Ottawa residents were being advised not to venture out onto the roads at all.

I settled back into the easy chair in the corner between two windows and tucked back into my book. Paulina went upstairs and got a pile of books and her guitar. I haven’t spent that much time with my youngest child in ages. Of course, she was also nursing a head cold so she wasn’t energetic enough to do much besides loll around in front of the fire.

At about 4pm, the lights, television and radio came back on. But I had finished my book, spent the afternoon in front of the fire with my husband and daughter, and felt very relaxed indeed. I made a simple dinner of salad, soup and open-faced Reuben sandwiches, and we watched two movies in a row.

“What a productive day this has been!” the teenager announced, before finally going off to bed. The power can go out any weekend as far as I’m concerned.

Author’s footnote: thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the late Marg Rupert, who was killed in a fire at her home on Sunday. Hold your loved ones close, for we never know how long we will have with them. Email:

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