In October 2011, New England had a powerful winter storm just days before Samhain that affected Western Mass with broken and downed trees that led to a long power outage.
Snow. Early snow; heavy, thick and wet flakes burying us under a dense blanket. Unprepared and too heavy to bare, the trees laid down one by one. Those not flexible enough to bend under the burden, snapped.
There is a purpose to the timing and the cycle of the seasons. Trees know this. Autumn is the time of returning, going inward. Trees feel this as they pull their sap back from their foliage and send it down to the Mother, deep into the ground to be stored in their roots and harden in preparation for winter’s icy hold on the land. But the Earth is shifting. The climate is changing. The patterns are disrupted and it is visible when a full force snowstorm arrives when the leaves are just embarking on their vibrant change and most are still green.
The trees were not ready for what came on October 29 and neither were most of the humans.
During that night, Winter met Autumn in a collision of intense beauty and destruction. In turn, this left most of us without electricity for many days, even weeks, and some of us stranded by blocked roads. In many ways I was blessed to be “well prepared” to live without electricity for an extended period of time since I frequently travel to festivals and rock climbing trips where I live without it for extended periods of time. This has led to me acquiring plenty of camping gear that comes in handy during a power outage such as a portable solar cell to charge batteries. I am also fortunate to live in a house supplied with a gas stove, gas hot water heater and a pellet stove.
Experiencing the magick of a deep snow
If you have experienced a deep snow, then you know how enveloping it is. There is a fierceness and a deep magick. As the trees surrendered to the force of the storm, so the the lights went out across the land. Standing in my yard I could hear the soft music of snow falling accented by the loud cracking of trees. Underneath that chorus, was the silence of a town unplugged from the grid. Together, the song of the experience filled my senses.
The following morning I awoke to a world dazzling with sunlight and snow crystals. The power was still out but that was no surprise and I sensed it would not be coming on soon. The destruction in my neighborhood alone told me so. What followed was almost 6 days living off the grid unexpectedly. Life settled into a rhythm and I read a lot. I felt blessed in that I still had running water and hot water too. I had friends melting snow in buckets for water and some that could not leave their neighborhood.
Unplugged and more in tune
The flow of life went on whether or not us humans had our comfortable access to electricity. I became acutely aware of ancestral generations living in the past. Life for them did not have the immediacy of turning a switch for light, for heat, for water or for entertainment. Their days were filled with working to meet their needs…food, water, heat, shelter. Water had to be pumped from a well or fetched from a stream. Food had to be planned for much farther in advance (all those Harvest celebrations we honor today; our ancestors celebrated because the hard work of harvesting and preparing for winter was done). Heat involved chopping wood or gathering it. And when the sun went down, they gathered together around the dinner table or the fire. They talked and shared stories or music. They read, knitted, sewed or fixed fishing nets or other tools they would need the next day.
It struck me as I watched many people struggle with “what to do” when completely unplugged, how deeply in tune our ancestors must have been to their own creativity. Can’t turn a switch to experience music? They made their own. Can’t play a video game? They created games such as chess or cards. Can’t jump on facebook to connect to community? They had gatherings, socials and went “visiting”. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy my facebook time, the power of the internet or the ease of modern conveniences. However, we might be losing more than we realize in our dependency on the modern grid.
Appreciating the world of the Ancestors
I found it ironic the coinciding of Samhain, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day with the darkness that suddenly laid across the land. Those three holidays all mark remembrance of our Ancestors or Honored Dead in some way. Somehow, it seemed fitting to do without or to do with less during the passage of those key days in the Turning of the Wheel. It helped me to appreciate the world my ancestors lived in just a little bit better and how that affected the expression of their lives. It also gave me a glimpse into the potential future for us all if solutions for our energy consumption and climate changes are not really addressed.
I also became acutely aware of how quickly I synchronized myself to the turning of a smaller wheel, the cycle of the sun in the course of a day in order to make the best use of the light. But the hidden magick I did not expect was how deeply wonderful the silence and darkness at night were. I live in an older neighborhood where the houses are close together. I did not realize just how noisy life with electricity is. I reveled in the opportunity to see stars in my own yard that normally are buried in light pollution and the silence was delicious.
The intensity of the storm has passed. The power is back on. The roads are lined with the debris from the trees. I have had my share of sorrow looking at the damage to the trees, but I remind myself change is a constant on Earth that must happen in order for growth to come in. The changes brought by the storm have created new openings to see the sky.