Sunday Salon: Earl, Survived

"Look, it won't be a direct hit," D assured me by phone from Honolulu.  "It is going to go up the Bay of Fundy, and you will just get the edges of Earl as he goes by.  It won't be serious."

"Hmm," I said, as I continued to ready my Halifax home for the hurricane. "I'm not sure it is so easy to predict the path.  After all, we have unusually warm ocean temperatures right now." In the last few days all my neighbors and colleagues had repeatedly reminded me of what had happened when Juan hit the city 8 years ago.  My neighborhood was without power for a week.  80% of the trees in the city's most glorious park were lost.  Get lots of extra cash, they told me, in case the banks lose power.  Make sure you have water, and batteries, and gas.  Don't go out to the shore to watch the waves (???); you'll be swept away.

Earl was supposed to hit around 9 a.m. on Saturday.  I couldn't get to sleep the night before, a combination of jet lag and excitement.  The streets were eerily peaceful.  When I woke up briefly at nine, nothing was happening.  The house was hot and close from being shut up so tightly.  I fell back asleep.  I only awoke when the power went out.  The first thing that hit me was how strangely silent my house was, without the buzz of all those appliances and the whirr of the fans.  But it wasn't silent outside - the windows were shaking with the storm.

I couldn't figure out how bad it was, because I don't have a radio.  Without the internet and the television, I suddenly realize how profoundly info-isolated I am. Certainly I couldn't just trust my eyes and ears.  I spent much of the day reading, and cleaning, and reading, and cleaning. (I had guests from DC who were supposed to arrive that morning.  Presciently, they had rescheduled their flight to arrive on Sunday.)  It's amazing how much of this you can get done without the call of movies to be watched, blogs to update, and gyms to hop off to in the car.  I made my way through most of The Masque of the Black Tulip, a frothy dual historical romance, set in part among Regency aristocratic espionage units and in part in the world of the modern academic who is studying them.  It had been languishing in a state of disgruntled neglect for much of the week while I tore my way through Mockingjay, the last of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games books.  I continued to ponder the tumultuous effect Mockingjay had on me, and the complexity of its choices.  I obsessed about a typo I had found in the first sentence of one of my blog posts about the book - a typo I couldn't correct without internet access, curse you, Earl. Torment.  I made some progress in Anne-Marie Macdonald's Nova Scotian epic Fall on Your Knees, in which the full force of familial tragedy comes crashing down on four sisters in early twentieth-century Cape Breton.  I contemplated what I would read next, and settled on The Ask and the Answer, the second book in Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy.  What better way, after all, to soothe the loss of one trilogy than to hop back into another.

The day stretched out.  The rain stopped, and the wind didn't.  I went for a walk, and discovered a neighborhood more densely populated than I had ever seen it.  Faced with electricity-less homes, every single one of my neighbors had ventured into the surreally sunny outdoors, where they were leaning steeply against the gales, surveying the damage to their trees and houses, and even getting up the odd game of extremely unpredictable catch. As the evening approached, marvelous smells began wafting up from backyard grills, as everyone rushed to use up their meat before it went bad.  I, alas, have no grill, so I looked mournfully at my fridge, unable to open it.  I ate some fruit.

When the sun went down for the night, so did I.  Oh, I read by candlelight for a while, which was very romantic, in a soporific sort of way.  But really, without electricity, my life became very simple, very plain. It is a greater leap into history that you can normally force yourself to imagine, and a greater humbling.  I fell asleep at 8:45 (about half an hour after sunset).  When I woke up at 6 the next day, the power still hadn't come back on.  I began to wonder how I was going to feed my guests.  All the stores and restaurants around me were closed, watching their supplies rot.  

A quick call to D in Hawai'i produced the news that the whole of the metropolitan area was powerless, and the problem probably wouldn't be fixed until after the long Labor Day weekend. (D, you see, knew more about the situation in Nova Scotia from seven time zones away than I did in the midst of it.  The internet giveth, and the internet taketh away.)

"Oh," he added.  "It looks like the storm took an abrupt right turn at the mouth of Fundy."

"I'm sorry," I replied, unsure if I had heard him correctly, "Are you saying that it came right over us?  That it was, what's the word I'm looking for, a direct hit?".

"Yeah, I guess so." A brief pause. "I was wrong."

I crowed.  Loudly.

The power, blessedly, came back on later on Sunday, leaving me just enough time to clean out my now-rotten fridge and run off to the airport to pick up my friends.  The weather was stunning, so we made our way out to Peggy's Cove. The quintessential Nova Scotian fishing village turned tourist draw, it has the most photographed lighthouse in North America.  The winds were still violent, and the waves were as vast and white as anything I have ever seen in Canada.

It wasn't a hurricane by the time it hit us, but a severe tropical storm.  That's too bad (and at the same time rather lucky), because then I could say that in my first thirteen months in Nova Scotia, I had been hit by two hurricanes.  I lived for four years in North Carolina, and how many hurricanes hit me?  None.  And not a single tropical storm.

Canada: defying stereotypes year after year.

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