Catching Up: Storm Warnings and Summer Reading

arthurbranchesHurricane Arthur passed over us yesterday. Happily, he was “only” a post-tropical storm when he got this far north, but he still packed a wallop. Our particular neighborhood in Halifax doesn’t seem to have been very hard hit. There are some branches down, including some pretty big ones, and we were without power for a few hours, but we got back on the grid before it became necessary to eat all the ice cream (shucks!). We got off lightly, then, compared to many. Here at least, too, the storm was pretty insignificant compared to 2003’s Hurricane Juan, which came onshore full force pretty much right where we live and took out 70% of the trees in nearby Point Pleasant Park as well as many of the biggest and most beautiful ones along our street (the before and after pictures here show clearly what a difference 70% makes).

Juan taught us respect for hurricane-force winds: the high reported gusts yesterday seemed to us good enough reason to keep off the streets and out of the way. So we had a quiet family day inside. Maddie and I did a sorting and reorganizing project in the basement while the lights were still on: its ostensible purpose was clearing out toys and supplies the kids have outgrown (brace yourself for donations, Salvation Army!), but a beneficent side effect is that we cleared three shelves in the bookcases down there, so my next project is reorganizing my mystery collection so the books aren’t two-deep. I also read deeper into King Hereafter (about which more in a moment). Then once we lost power it was, happily, still bright enough by the window to read most of the latest New York Review of Books. Owen has been spending most of his time lately turning a computer game he made into an iOS app (I’m counting on him to finance my early retirement through this or some similar project!) — a nice consequence of his losing power to his desktop is that he headed to the piano for amusement instead, so we whiled away the afternoon listening to his improvs plus some practice time on another of his summer projects, the cadenzas from the Ravel left-hand piano concerto.

We weren’t expecting power back until 9 p.m., but everything lit up again around 7, which was a relief. During winter storms you always have the reassurance that you can keep food fresh just by putting it outside, but the freezer packs we use to keep things chilled in summer wouldn’t probably get us through much more than a day. In then end, then, our storm day was just kind of a quiet break from routine. But we’re back in business today, which, along with making up for yesterday’s missed chores and errands, includes packing Owen off for math camp at Dalhousie. Here’s hoping the restored sunshine doesn’t turn his residence room into a sauna, and (more important) that he has fun bonding with other kids who really like math. He’s read math books for years, starting with picture books like G is for Google and moving on to books like Clifford Pickover’s Wonders of Numbers. He and his dad have also worked their way through most of the Great Courses math options. I did well in math through high school but met my match in first-year calculus, so they leave me behind pretty quickly with this stuff. But in case your kid ever says “what will I ever use this for in real life?” it might be helpful to know that just this week Owen apparently solved a graphics problem in the design of his new game using calculus. Hard as it is for us to believe, he will be applying to Dalhousie for real this fall, presumably as either a math or a computer science major — or both! So this time on campus will be a good preview.

juliejamesweddingAnother summer routine in our household is the library’s summer reading club. Maddie has signed up for it regularly in the past, and I was very happy that she agreed to do it again this year. Like last year, we’ve picked a small quantity of books for her to aim for (10) so that she doesn’t compromise on their quality — also, as usual, she’s got several weeks scheduled for summer camps that never leave time for reading during the day. As always, I’ve pledged to match her book for book (which shouldn’t be any problem for me, I hope!); our last day to meet our goal is September 6. You can see here how things have gone for us in previous years. We’ve both read our first book for this year’s tally: hers was Judy Blume’s Forever, and mine was Julie James’s It Happened One Wedding (which I quite enjoyed, though not as much as her Practice Makes Perfect). I’ve been reading a lot besides that one, but I’m not going to officially count books I read only as “filler” (familiar books I skim through for distraction when it’s too busy to concentrate properly, usually a Dick Francis or a Robert B. Parker, or, nowadays, a Jennifer Crusie or a Mary Balogh). The other real reading I’ve been doing is King Hereafter.  Though it is going very slowly, I’m not at all sorry to be reading it: the first 250 pages were really tough, and even now, at 400 pages in, I still can’t always remember who’s who, or who’s related to whom, but it is working its inexorable Dunnett magic on me, and it’s wonderful to see her working through her great themes (leadership, nation building, love, war) in a different landscape. I’m also part way through A Time of Gifts: it got put aside for other things but not because I wasn’t interested in it. Next up after King Hereafter will be Miriam Toews’s All My Puny Sorrows, though, which my book club has chosen for its July meeting.

4 Comments to Catching Up: Storm Warnings and Summer Reading

  1. July 7, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it odd how a big storm is a disaster, but a small one can be a nice break from routine? I was in a hurricane as a child when my family lived briefly in Florida. It was not serious enough to do more than up-root trees in our area and did not up-root any of ours. I remember it as kind of fun, watching all the rain and wind from the safety of our house.

    It’s the same with Earthquakes here in California. Long time residents, like me, have lots of fun stories about small ones, but those of us who lived through the 1989 quake can all remember fearing for our lives for the 15 seconds it lasted.

    • Rohan's Gravatar Rohan
      July 8, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I think I’d find living in an earthquake zone really stressful. The one good thing to be said about our most common forms of natural disaster (hurricanes and blizzards) is that you can generally predict them far enough in advance to do a little planning and preparation! I don’t know how people in tornado alley sleep at night.

  2. July 8, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I heard on the news about Arthur hitting you and were wondering how you got on, so it’s good to have news that it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Much to everyone’s amusement both tornados and earthquakes are something we have to learn to live with in Birmingham. We are smack in the middle of the UK’s tornado alley and although they don’t happen often when they do they cause tremendous damage. The same is true of earthquakes. We are directly on a fault line and, although it is unlikely that we are ever going to get a really big one, a 5 on the Richter scale is quite frightening enough, especially when it hits in the middle of the night and you wake up with your bed gyrating around the bedroom. I’m glad you and Maddie were able to put the time to good uses.

    • Rohan's Gravatar Rohan
      July 9, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I had no idea that Birmingham was in such a danger zone! I grew up in Vancouver, where the threat of The Big One is always there, but since there have not been any major earthquakes in the city in living memory (only the occasional tremor, that I know of) it always seemed such a remote possibility.

      Other parts of NS and NB got hit a lot worse by Arthur, and some are still waiting to get their power back. so we feel fortunate.

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