There's more than freezing drizzle in the air; there's also a sort of antsiness. Even the cats seem a tad nervous, all but young Maggie, who wasn't even thought of three years ago when we got socked by the Great Ice Storm. Now, looking out the window, I see twigs and branches bowed down, weighted with that deadly purity; out back, the skirts of the old spruce trees are swept low toward the ground. We've got ice again.

Three years and a month ago, I remember hearing the woods down by the creek groan and boom as branches and whole trees snapped under the weight of an inch or more of pure glaze ice. I skittered out to the front yard, to watch helplessly as branch after branch of my century-old big maples tore loose and fell. They had been such beautiful trees; now that beauty's gone forever, except in my memory. The ice weighed down the power lines too, snapping them, tearing down poles and pylons until all of southeastern Ontario and western Quebec was dark. Huge areas of Montreal went without power for days. Some parts of the countryside were blacked out for weeks. It was, they said, the storm of the century. It was also, I can assure you, freak-out scary in a weirdly peaceful way.

The landscape's still scarred. We've gotten used to the uglification of our ornamental town trees; the worst-hit are long gone, and the others have been tidied up as best they could be. But out in the scrub woods, there are still patches of terrible damage. I went past one such just yesterday, a stretch of smashed, battered and bent young trees. Even if we could forget, the woods would remind us.

And now, three years later, when we see twigs coated with ice, that peculiar deadly laciness, there's a certain unease. Nothing really specific, nothing that you could put a finger on. Just a sense of generalized foreboding: what someone once aptly called "the nameless dreads."

It's not surprising. Big bad scary stuff leaves its traces in memory, etched chemically into the mind's circuits. Enough big bad scary stuff, and the traces go deep enough that there's real and permanent damage. But even the lesser stuff leaves a sort of hamster trail in the memory, and something that feels like the original big bad scary stuff can pull the imagination down that trail. We all know what _deja vu_ feels like, after all.

Ice makes me nervous. I turned on the radio for some blessedly sane Baroque music, made fresh tea, flicked on the warm lamplight in my office, lowered the blinds, closed the doors, until I felt safely cocooned. That helped a little, but not quite enough. The memories are still there in the very smell of the air. Once the Nameless Dreads are on, they're very hard to switch off, more's the pity.

Neither God nor humankind can say "There will never be an ice storm like that again." There probably won't be, or at least not in my lifetime. But there are no promises. There never are, after all. I don't put my faith in the weather; lightning does strike twice sometimes.

But I do put my faith in what God is making of my life. I do know how far I've come in the three years since the storm. I know what healing power lies in this landscape: the power of living things to recover, the stronger power of God to heal. I know that more and more these days: that ever since I first put my foot on the Great Journey, things turn out differently from the way they used to.

There is no need for the Nameless Dreads, and they don't accomplish a single fool thing. And trying to cocoon yourself away in safety isn't the answer, either. I got my boots and coat and went out to get the mail, and yes, it was quite icy underfoot, but nothing I couldn't manage. I kicked loose snow onto the slickest bits and found that that gave my feet a little purchase. I took my across-the-street neighbours' mail to them--they're not young, and they shouldn't be out on ice--and had quite a comfortable chat. By the time I got back indoors, the Nameless Dreads were gone. We're not in for a repeat performance of the Great Ice Storm, and even if we were, it's okay. We'd get through it.

If there's no other reason for belief, there's the practical selfish one: that belief simply makes life a whole lot easier to live. Not that bad things don't happen, but you can respond to them with more resiliency; not that storms don't lower on the horizon, but you don't fear them so badly. You find yourself better equipped to look for traces of love, goodness, healing, glory, in this messy world. You find yourself with a new underlying assumption: that all is in God's hands, and that it will turn out all right in the end. And that itself is worth it, right there.

The freezing rain stopped late in the afternoon, and the temperature has dropped and the wind has picked up. I don't doubt that it's going to be a real mess underfoot next time I go out. But that's something to be negotiated with patience and humour, not with anxiety or fear.

The nay-sayers sneer that faith is simply self-delusion--a comfortable way of evading the roughnesses of the world. I honestly don't think so: but even if they're right and I'm wrong--well, wouldn't you still rather eat chocolate than coal?

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Copyright © 2001 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 10 Feb 2001
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