The ice storm that pummeled our area, the fallen trees, the dropping temperatures, and abundance of snow have posed challenges for many over the holiday season. For me, they have provided artistic inspiration, both in my writing life and in my renewed interest in photography.
Living Like Mariah
Following the ice storm induced power outage, our home was left dark and without heat. Outside the front door, the wind blew, and the trees produced the most haunting music I’ve ever heard. A spark lit my mind. I pulled an armchair up to the fireplace and wrote by candlelight for the entire day, with a shawl pulled around my shoulders and a Hudson Bay blanket over my knees.
So began the story of Mariah, an Irish lass born in the 1830’s. She was the daughter of my first Irish ancestor to arrive in Canada. My 12 hour endurance, electricity free, pales in comparison to her experience, but it moved me a bit closer to her.
For some time now, I’ve been wanting to write fiction based on my Irish ancestors. I’d already done a lot of research about the family and the region where they settled. Now, beautiful images poured into my mind and these names on paper became real people to me. As the plot unraveled, I could feel the emotion and frustrations of young Mariah. I could channel her attitudes, and understand her motivations.
Journey Through the Frozen Wood
On New Years Day my husband and I went snowshoeing in the late afternoon, and I took the photographs you will find below. The experience of the woods after the ice storm I will never forget — the orchestra of sound, the crystal sights, the rawness of the cold, the obstacles posed by newly fallen trees. Ice falling from the tree tops sounded like plates breaking on a kitchen floor. My own fingers were on burning horribly from the windchill. How can I describe the physical pain of being in such a cold environment given the clothing of the 1830’s? How did Mariah navigate the frozen terrain in simple leather soled boots? Did she notice the fading light in the late afternoon? Was she worried about making it home before dark?
Let the Music Take You There
On Christmas Day, I heard Nearer My God to Thee played on the cello. I’ve played this piece over and over again as I write. It’s mournful. It’s magical. It takes me there when it is time to write. I’ve recently discovered at even the earthy smoky scent of incense takes me there too!