The Cailleach’s Last Kick
After writing the article on the gift from Nova Scotia Winter 2014/15, I was premature in thinking that the spirit of weather had its last “say.” More snowstorms arrived, with accumulations that were almost impossible to move anywhere because there was already snow in every nook and cranny and side space of any parking lot, yard, or garden. That meant that over 75% of Southwest Nova lost greenhouse space either from the covering or the whole structure caving in.
By April there was an article in Nova Scotia’s Rural Delivery magazine that told about farmers’ loss of barn roofs and cattle, and that was before the final count: over one hundred farms had collapse of roofs, which meant lots of walls and interiors and livelihood went with them.
We used to joke about our barn as being the size of the medieval Viking cathedral in Greenland. It’s footprint is over 100 ft (30 metres long); we had repaired the metal roof and put in uprights since we came here, but this year’s snow had no place to slide off the roof because of piles of it coming up to the eaves. Because the barn was surrounded by snow from the driveway as well as natural drifting in a bowl-like formation, no human being or machine we knew could get at the barn to move the accumulation.
On Thursday 16 April, the weight buckled the whole side that had no stalls or partitions and the debris spiralled into a huge cave-in. The sound was muffled by the snow, as the house was surrounded by 12 ft (4 metre) drifts and most windows were covered; there was the echo of a swish that I vaguely thought was snow falling from somewhere. I did not actually notice anything different when i when out to meet someone during the day because the front of the barn is like the movie set of western towns, all front and no side. it took David going to the mailbox on the road near evening and turning around to come back for him to notice that 2/3 of the structure was open to the sky.
Fortunately our barn had only things, not living animals in it, since even the mice were tunnelling under the snow somewhere. People who used our building for storage were very understanding and used their common sense in approaching the removal of their vehicles. We are lucky we live in a locality where people comprehend that it was an act of nature, that they were willing to deal with any damage themselves, and to offer to help plow and to shovel snow (which did not melt for another three weeks) to get at the barn. The kindest person said that our loss was greater than theirs. We appreciate the supportive neighborhood attitude that surrounded the event.
I am writing this at the end of the second week of May; the ice left the lake in front of us at the beginning of the week, the deconstruction of the barn will take quite some time and part of what is left upright will be saved for an outbuilding of modest size. We have had other offers of help from further away in Nova Scotia, and my uncle said he would come down from Ontario to give us a hand after he has been on an adventure in Australia. He is our elder with the most get up and go so we are looking forward to having him come.
Many of the useful things left in the space now are tagged for an intentional community site and they would have gone there this summer anyway. As it is, people will come pick those items up and the pile will get smaller, and we will not run out of kindling for quite awhile.
Our son had spoken of downsizing the barn the morning it collapsed.
It must be time for a great change, the cailleach’s last laugh, and an opportunity for us to take stock.
There is snow and deer damage in the orchard, the animals did not fare well this winter: even the robins could not find worms on returning north. A beaver came to our front door area to eat grass, something I had never seen before. He also came to tell us to keep building, and that we will do, in whatever shape or form would be of service.
We feel that we had a surprise and an opportunity. We shared an experience with many people in NS this winter, facing the elements. Fortunately we are healthy enough to shovel snow ourselves and not so affected in making a living by what our outbuilding sheltered, as were all the farmers, growers and producers. We are all getting a chance to pay attention to climate change and it could make us think about communities and helping one another. The spirit of the land can make all of us take stock and receive the message of its sovereignty, realize that something significant is happening, and that we need to honour the earth; we have lost very little compared to many people, and yet it reminds us of our interconnection and the spirit of the land itself.
Nature acted to show her power; we can surrender to her message and allow what will be born to emerge from the chaos and from the open space swept clear by the winds of change.