Held back from visiting Mom in the hospital by the inclement weather, I decided to heed the insistent voice I kept hearing... the one that whispered, ever more frantically ...It's Christmas!
Not one single thing has been done in preparation, in our house. The unearthly Storms that have pummelled Qualicum Beach and the rest of the Island have effectively stopped any baking or travelling to shop for gifts, for a couple of weeks, as power outages continue.
And time goes by.
There is another storm in the forecast for this afternoon; I intend to attempt to travel through it anyway. It has been a long time without any contact with my mother.
On Tuesday, despite another Wind Storm, I travelled down this side of the Island, to Nanaimo. This highway, although strewn with branches, is safer; I do not have to travel over a mountain pass, or beside a lake, or through Cathedral Grove to get there.
But my little truck fought hard to stay in its lane, when enormous gusts of Wind howled down the highway. By any one's standards, this Storm was intent on doing damage.
There are Trees hanging over power lines everywhere. BC Hydro is out in full force, repairing downed lines and cutting Trees that have fallen over, or been sheared off, with giant, jagged shards of naked wood reaching for the sky.
The continuing Wind and strange weather patterns have seriously hampered the repair efforts... hydro crews from Alberta are being flown in to lend a helping hand.
When I reach the Mall, I am struck by how few people are out shopping. Where are the Christmas hordes? The Storms have kept people at home...those fortunate few that still have power. And I hear stories of generators flying off shelves, and I hear of the need for people to know how to use these aids they are suddenly acquiring. Generators are meant to be used outdoors; there have been stories of death amongst the uninitiated, who use them without ventilation.
It is the middle of winter. Houses without a method of heating besides using electricity are very cold...and some people have been without power for many days, with only a promise that power may be restored by the weekend. Huge freezers holding last summer's garden bounty, along with meats, are defrosting, bringing hardship to many. Children are cold...how does one keep a baby warm in temperatures like these?
I search the faces of the shoppers. There are not many who look as if they are enjoying themselves, it seems difficult for others to meet my eyes or return my smile. Careworn, anxious eyes meet my gaze. Everyone that waits in line-ups with me has a story to share, about the weather. Not many sound excited over the forthcoming holiday...most have cancelled plans already made.
There are so many Storms in the long range forecast.
But I notice a child, looking up at the adults that surround him. His mother is intent on telling her story about how long her family has been without electricity; her son's face was becoming more and more anxious. Finally he tugged on her jacket. She brushed him off, placing her hand on his head, continuing with her story. He would not be denied, however.
His mother excused herself, for a moment, and looked down at him, her eyebrows raised. What about Santa, her son whispered, how will he find us, without lights?
I watched the adults around him, shamefacedly assuring the anxious little boy that Santa would find him, telling him all sorts of different ways Santa had at his disposal.
It was as if this child brought this small group of people, waiting in line with furrowed brows, to their senses. Suddenly the Christmas music didn't sound so manic; there was laughter...stories shared of how each one of us worried Santa wouldn't find us, at some point or another, in our childhoods.
The child, who had appeared in our midst dragging his feet, his head down, walked away with his mother with a spring in his step. All was right in his world now...even if there were no lights!
As I wandered off in search of another gift, I mused over how quickly the atmosphere changed, when happy stories, joyful stories, were remembered and shared. How quickly positive energy replaced the negative thoughts, destroying the weighty cloud that hung over us.
How lucky I felt, to be standing behind this little boy, and hearing the stories of reassurance. I needed them, too.
And suddenly, to me, it began to look...and feel...a lot more like Christmas.