Changing Weather

I’ve just come through another Atlantic winter storm. As storms go, it was manageable in my area, with no power outage and thus no slogging through deep snow to connect my generator. Other areas weren’t so lucky. I still managed to complain, inwardly of course, about my sore knee and saying things such as is this snow going to stop and oh, no, not wind, too. I don’t like the wind, not even when I channel my kite-flying days. But the good news – my house was not caught up in mudslides like so many residents of Southern California face. There are neither locusts nor wolverine here threatening my safety. The ground isn’t cracking open and swallowing up anything in its path. I have nothing to complain about. The snow was plentiful and inconvenient but does not measure up against so many other disasters going on around the world.

What I did have was daughter Laurie and granddaughter Abby snowed in with me. The weather forecast was less than accurate with their predictions when we made our plans. We closed the curtains and did crafts, baked, read, watched movies, while the wind howled and whipped up a smoothie of snow to hurl against my windows, reminding us not to be foolhardy and try to attempt an escape. We were a team of shovel and broom and snowblower operators. We cleared my driveway and carried on down to my elderly neighbour’s house and dug out her car and reclaimed her driveway, which made her feel loved and cared for, and made us very happy. “It don’t get better than that,” quoting someone with poor grammar.

The Atlantic Ocean can be unkind, at times, stirring up trouble with nasty weather, but that merely keeps us on our toes. It’s winter. I feel fortunate to live where the seasons change, where we are reminded regularly that nothing is constant, that we are all just blowing in the wind, with life and the weather changing the rules without notice. Society has come to believe that happiness is a right, that we are somehow entitled to skip to the front of the line and hold our hand out for an over-sized serving of easy joy free of any encumbrances. Mother Nature is quick to remind us that is folly.

After the storm finally settled and Laurie and Abby were safely home, I watched the video of Joni Mitchell singing Both Sides Now at the Grammys on February 4th. What a moment that must have been for those in attendance. She has changed from the young woman who found her start in coffee houses, her first paying gig at The Louise Riel Coffee House in Saskatoon in 1972. Her voice was soft when she started out, but she soon found her strength that sang the lyrics she wrote without hesitation or restriction. She became a force. Rolling Stone Magazine placed her at #9 on the list of 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.

I was moved by her recent Grammy performance; not in sorrow for her lost youth or the limits placed on her because of failing health, but because the words of her iconic song are even more meaningful now, more poignant, touching, truthful. She embarked on the great adventure of making music, of writing songs, of finding herself in the words that tumbled from and were pulled from her soul. She has endured loss, has made mistakes, and has enjoyed success with her music and with her visual art. To hear her sing once again was a privilege, her voice gentled by age and from the returning symptoms of polio she had at age nine and an aneurysm in 2015. She has softened at the edges, keeping time with her cane as she sat in her chair and sang, perhaps more for herself than all those in the room, many of whom turned to her for inspiration when they were starting out. Undoubtedly, in her mind, she was standing upright and strong at the microphone, her guitar strap round her neck, her head tipped slightly to the side to keep her long hair off her face, the young version of her safely inside her memory.

I wonder if we truly appreciate the value of change, as we tuck in the bits of wisdom that only stormy experiences grant us the rights to. The storm has quieted here, the snow has all been pushed out of the way. The wind has wandered off, for now. I’ll rest my knee, gas up the snowblower for next time, and chalk this one up as a win. I will follow Joni’s example, we all should. Keep singing.

wendistewart@live.ca