Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In the New Year

Well, I have to admit the Yule season wasn't very festive for me. If you are local you know, and if not you probably saw on the national news the coverage of a ferocious ice storm that we got here, starting on actual Yule and going until about Christmas Eve. Then after the actual storm ended, we saw the havoc it had wrought all around us. The ice brought down trees and branches everywhere, damaging homes and cars, blocking roads, and especially downing power lines. My area of downeast Maine was hardest hit in our state. At my house we had no power for eight full days...almost ten days total with the two days on each end of the incident. For the first few days it was warm and rainy so the only inconveniences were the water and lights and other conveniences not working, but soon we got into record cold temps (the worst 30 below zero) that seriously threatened to freeze our pipes solid and make our home uninhabitable until spring. We spent hundreds of dollars on propane tanks and took shifts staying up all night every night keeping the wood stove and the propane heater going, but the house was still never above fifty degrees in the warmest areas. The dogs had to wear coats and I had to move our tortoise's habitat up into the vent above the chimney in an effort to keep everyone safe at home. We had emergency shelter lined up for all our animals but we fought hard not to have to traumatize them with a move. Fortunately it (just barely) did not come to that. We got our pipes fixed and our heat restored on the late afternoon of New Year's Eve. We got our lights back two days before our heat because we have water generated heating pipes and three of them had frozen and burst. So we didn't really do much celebration over the holiday period until New Year's day, when we truly and meaningfully celebrated "the rebirth of the light." The actual holidays were fairly cold and miserable but the meaning of Yule has never been clearer to me.

The storm and the long term interruption in people's' basic services had a large impact in our community. The trees were broken to bits and will take years to recover. People lost cars to falling ice. Their homes were damaged. They lost needed food supplies when freezers went dead for extended times. They burned through a month's worth of firewood. Animals suffered. Even in my household of coddled pets, one of our cats got out for half an hour during the deep freeze and got frostbite on three of her feet. She is recovering quickly but requires lots of expensive follow up care. And many people in my community are not able to afford that kind of care for their pets, if they are even inclined to give it. The different impacts have yet to all be fully understood.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency is interviewing locals now to try to measure these impacts. The whole thing makes me wonder how frequent these storms might realistically become as a result of climate change. And of course, climate change ties into veganism. For a fuller grasp of the issues, check out:


As for me, I am going to celebrate the ever growing length of daylight with as much gratitude as my ancestors must have done, when they were ever more connected to the realities of day to day survival and our relationship to nature. May you all be blessed, safe and warm for the rest of this winter.

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