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Silent Night

Normally at this time of year it’s a job to get a decent night’s sleep on the isthmus of Dyke’s Point. (This time of year) we live in a westerly wind tunnel.

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BY PETER PICKERSGILL

Normally at this time of year it’s a job to get a decent night’s sleep on the isthmus of Dyke’s Point.

Our house sits on a narrow bar dividing Bishop’s Harbour to the west and Salvage Harbour to the east. The bar’s north end is punctuated by a giant rock, half again as tall as the house, crowded up against our north wall.

A stone’s throw to the south an escarpment five houses high directs every wind from the western hemisphere against the Dyke’s Point rock and our house huddled below it. As the rushing air squeezes between these two bookends it accelerates.

We live in a westerly wind tunnel.

The bonus comes when the northeasterly gales start in late winter and continue into the spring. Then we are safe, as cozy as can be crouched below our guard rock.

The only hint a tempest is raging outside is the snow streeling horizontally, spooling past the east and west windows like a silent movie. That’s when we bless the protection the shape of the earth’s crust affords us from all directions save west.

But from the west, oh my dear, you cannot imagine. But try.

Picture all the force and noise of a gigantic hair dryer, only cold. And wet.

The rain, sleet and salt spray driven against the windows add a staccato clatter to the shrieking gusts tugging at the shingles, shouldering the door, howling along the soffits, throttling the building with force enough to draw out every nail in the structure. Or so it seems, wakeful at night, lying in the darkened bedroom, deafened by the din.

Normally that’s how it is.

But this fall has been entirely abnormal. August stretched gently into September and then came Igor. The old people in Salvage were unanimous, they had never seen anything like it.

One woman added, lowering her voice to a whisper and glancing around to be sure she wasn’t overheard, “Never seen the like and don’t care to again.”

And maybe she won’t. On the northeast coast, we haven’t seen any weather worth talking about since.

It’s as though Igor tired out the giant lungs that inhale and exhale for the universe. There was nothing more to give.

And it isn’t just the wind. There has been less rain, more sun and higher temperatures than normal.

It’s true the days have been getting steadily shorter, some things do not change. Shortening though they were, the days have been so mild, dry and bright, you didn’t really notice there was no length to them.

Call-in radio shows have made the strangeness of the climate a topic, urging the public to call in and talk about it.

Mark Twain wrote everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. He was certainly right about the talking part. Particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A friend of ours, visiting from France marvelled at the fact we couldn’t meet anybody on the road, or transact any business in a shop without an introductory paragraph about the weather. She didn’t realize what seemed a curious custom to her, is to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians just common courtesy.

But for me it’s more than that. It’s the departure point for a research study into human behaviour. I call it the ‘Glass Fullness Project’.

“Great day” you say to someone you meet.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” they reply.

This person clearly belongs among those who see their glasses as half full.

“Great day yes, but we’re going to pay for it later” replies another.

That person’s glass is likely half empty, but one thing is sure: they are running a tab.

Lately, I hear a lot more people replying “Yes, it’s a great day but it’s scary.”

This group, growing in number, shows Mark Twain might not have been thinking ahead. Yes, they are talking about the weather, but they are also thinking of doing something about it.

They think Stephen Harper and his attack dog, Minister of the Environment John Baird, should absolutely be doing something about the weather. When Canada is held up to international ridicule because of Harper’s dinosaur perspective on climate change, it may be time for a new government, these people are thinking.

Glass half full? Half empty?

Or spilled down the front of our national shirt.

In our little corner of the world the strange weather is both enjoyable and at the same time something to think about. With so little wind, it’s quiet enough inside our house to hear yourself think.

What I’m thinking on this shortest day of the year is my glass is neither half full nor half empty. On this silent night, I lift my glass, full right to the brim, and propose a toast to you, the reader, for a happy holiday season and a peaceful and rewarding new year.

pickersgill@mac.com

Geographic location: Salvage Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, France Canada

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