Connection and chaos

Christmas Eve, oil on canvasboard, 6X8 private collection.

Last weekend, more than 260 million Americans were under winter weather advisories of some sort. That’s a stunningly high percentage of our population. I understand the powerful impulse that impelled some of them into the teeth of the blizzard despite those warnings. I’ve driven into horrible storms myself just because it was Christmas.

We’re high on a bluff so the storm surge couldn’t touch us. We heat with wood. During our few hours without power, we wrapped gifts by candlelight and ate Scotch eggs.

That doesn’t mean the state of Maine went unscathed. My contractor was called away from my kitchen project to tend a house flooded by the storm surge; thousands of gallons of salt water rolled across the lawn into their basement. He cut the power and they’ll be replacing their systems this week.

Christmas Eve 2, oil on canvasboard, private collection.

Almost a quarter of a million customers were without power in Maine on Friday. Some still haven’t seen it restored. That made for a wicked cold and dark Christmas for many people.

I had no great expectations for Christmas, so when my plans went flapdoodle, it was no big deal. I was headed for Troy, NY, to have pizza with my youngest child. We would then wait patiently for his sisters to be done with their roistering so we could celebrate Christmas later this week.

My daughters didn’t fare as well. M was snowed in at Buffalo. L has influenza, but she wouldn’t have been able to travel to her in-laws’ home anyway; the driving was too awful. One of J’s in-laws had emergency surgery on Christmas Eve and others were down with influenza.

For me this meant no inconvenience, just constant recalibration. That hardly compares with being stuck in an airport for thirty hours, but it’s had its moments.

Lonely cabin, 8X10, oil on canvasboard, $652 framed.

Buffalo has a long history of blizzards. Many Buffalo natives (of which I am one) have, at one time or another, been trapped by sudden, catastrophic snowfalls. There were generally no happy Hallmark endings to our experiences. There was no instant personal connection, no way nor reason to stay in contact with the strangers with whom we were thrown together.

At 18, when the Blizzard of ’77 hit, I was sublimely self-centered. At 63, I’m more inclined to look at the people around me. A thought niggles—what if we looked at this week as an opportunity for new connections, to welcome others into our Christmas spirit?

At Passover, my Jewish friends set an extra cup of wine on the dinner table and open the door for the prophet Elijah. This tradition is intertwined with the idea of welcoming the stranger, since nobody knows in what guise Elijah might appear.

I believe that a winter that starts out with a roar generally continues in the same vein. That means more storms, more dislocation. My resolution for the remainder of this Christmastide and beyond is to focus more on the ones I’m with than the ones I’m missing.

The Late Bus, 8X6, oil on canvasboard, $435 framed.

I’m also going to run to Walmart and replace my husband’s car emergency kit. His has wandered off. For those of you new to sub-zero temperatures, that means:

  • A filled water bottle;
  • Candles and matches in a tightly-sealed glass jar;
  • Chocolate bars or other high-calorie non-perishable snack foods (you can eat them in the spring if you don’t need them now);
  • A car blanket;
  • A collapsible shovel in the trunk;
  • A charged power bank for your phone.