the beauty and fury of mother nature

The Saturday before Christmas started out beautifully. The air was crisp, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. Just cold enough to bring that rosy glow to your cheeks, the kind that makeup just can’t reproduce.

Local weather teams had been forecasting ‘the ice storm to end all ice storms’. Best estimates had it hitting the Toronto area sometime Saturday night.

With no sign of trouble that morning we decided to keep our plans for the annual pilgrimage to St. Lawrence Market, a 208 year old market complex in the heart of the city.

Since 1803 St. Lawrence Market has been a hub for fresh meat, produce, flowers, baked goods, seafood and cheeses.

It is our Christmas tradition to visit the market the last Saturday before Christmas to shop for our delicious holiday treats. The added bonus is that we get to wolf down our traditional market breakfast of peameal bacon sandwiches from Carousel Bakery.

No visit to Toronto is complete without a trip to St. Lawrence Market and a peameal sandwich. Trust me on this one.

The freezing rain started coming down during the drive home. By the time we parked the car the driveway was as slippery as a skating rink. I crept carefully alongside the truck to snap a picture of the Japanese maple near the front of my lawn. Its ice-encrusted branches gave it a magical presence.

If memory serves, I posted it to Facebook with a comment about how pretty but dangerous freezing rain can be.

Japanese maple around midday Saturday

Japanese maple around midday Saturday

The rain, as it turns out, would not stop falling for 36 hours.

We initially lost our power around 7pm Saturday night. It came back on about an hour later, flickering on and off for the next 2 hours. This made doing laundry, and other pre-Christmas chores, extra fun. By 9pm the power was out for what would end up being 3.5 days.

My family was lucky. We have a gas fireplace, which we used for warmth on the main floor. We also have that wonderful Wolf gas range which I almost killed a few weeks ago. We were able to prepare food and boil water on the stove-top by manually lighting the pilot. Other than that, though, we were basically Amish for the next few days.

The temperature, thankfully, stayed around the freezing mark throughout this whole ordeal. The inside of the house was around 5 degrees Celsius (41 Farenheit), but at least it wasn’t freezing. We were lucky, indeed. Those without gas or wood-burning fireplaces were not so fortunate.

That first night was the most frightening. I woke up around 3am to a jolt. At first I thought it was an earthquake. The loud crashing sound told me it was likely a large tree (or part of) hitting the ground. Since my property backs onto conservation land and sides onto a ravine, I am surrounded by large mature trees. I spent the next 2 hours fretting over whether one would come crashing through my roof.

I listened in terror as an eerie creaking noise would intermittently break the silence, followed by a solid thud.

Time after time I heard the crack and then the fall. And it was truly horrific.

In the morning I descended the staircase, pausing on the landing between 1st and 2nd floors to look out the side window. That’s when I noticed large portions of a tree sitting on my roof.

Broken tree limbs frozen to my roof

Broken tree limbs frozen to my roof

The ragged broken end you see sticking up on the right is about 8 inches in diameter. I went outside to see what else was happening on my property.

Apart from dozens of broken branches strewn throughout the backyard, the only significant fall-out seemed to be the sister limbs of the one resting on my roof. Two others crashed down to the side walkway.

I ventured out for a walk to assess the damage around the neighborhood, and also because I was already suffering from cabin fever. What I saw amazed, awed and horrified me.

Power lines hung precariously low, sagging under the weight of broken branches and heavy ice.

Massive tree branches were scattered all over the road, on front lawns, across sidewalks and dangerously close to homes and vehicles.

The more I took in, the worse it seemed to get. And then I saw a few neighbours huddled in front of one home. As I made my way over it became clear why they had stopped there.

One home, a tiny pre-war bungalow, had a massive tree across the entire length of its front lawn and resting across the roof.


Then I glanced at the house immediately to the left of it, and saw that it had a massive tree lying across the width of the front lawn and resting on top of a pickup truck.


As badly as I feel for the individuals impacted by this devastating damage, it did serve to remind me just how fortunate I was. My family was safe, and the damage and mess to my property was nothing compared to what it could have been.

And I was once again reminded that perspective is everything.

When I looked out my upper window to see the fallen limbs on my roof and all over the property, I felt anxious, worried about what damage we’d incurred, how much it might cost to repair. I worried about my landscaping, the costly ornamental trees that may be too damaged to salvage.

But then I saw what my neighbours had to contend with.

I quickly changed my tune, quietly thanked my lucky stars, and decided to stop griping about having no power 3 days before Christmas.

Instead of looking for destruction, I decided to look for the beauty inside the devastation.

I paused to reflect on the fact that it’s so easy to find the pain, the ugly, the strife, the hardship, and yet so much harder to find the beauty, the joy, the good.

We need only look as far as the daily news programs and the headlines screaming out from the front pages. Bad news, salacious stories and heartache abound. I can’t fall into those traps any more.

I need to take responsibility and choose a more beautiful and hopeful way.

 “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”  Helen Keller

Keep moving…

xoxo nancy

50 thoughts on “the beauty and fury of mother nature

  1. You timed that trip to the market bloody well! Gosh, that sounded terrifying! Glad you emerged relatively unscathed. And I bet you’re even more glad you managed to clear all the sugar off ‘The Wolf’ 🙂

    • Oh Linda, I was thanking my lucky stars for that Wolf! Without out we wouldn’t even be able to boil a cup of tea or water for instant coffee. Hubby actually managed to make a pretty amazing meal Sunday night, but candlelight – all on the stove top. And to think I’d nearly killed it. 🙂

  2. Good grief! this looks terrifying! I am so glad you and your family are ok!!
    We are having storms over here at the moment, but not quite on the same scale! We have a lot of flooding, and a lot of wind so there are trees down all over the place but thankfully it is relatively warm!
    makes my 23hrs without power seem pretty good!

  3. Wow what a scary ordeal! Its something how beautiful and dangerous mother nature can be at the same time. And that market looks wonderful- glad you made there and back before it got too bad.

    • The timing worked out perfectly for us – one more thing to be grateful for! And, yeah, it was pretty scary at the time. What I failed to mention was that while much of the city got its power back within 24-36 hours (and we went 3.5 days), some neighbourhoods actually went 10+ days without power — right thought Christmas and in some cases New Years. Makes me so, so grateful we were only impacted for 3 days.

    • It was one of the most terrifying nights I’ve had in a long while. I literally sat up in bed waiting for a tree to crash through my ceiling. In retrospect, if I was that worried I probably should have moved to another part of the house. Clearly wasn’t thinking that one all the way through.

      • I’ve spent several big windstorms sleeping (sort of) downstairs in the one room I thought was farthest away from our big trees. The crack and thump is awful! So far nothing has touched our roof but we’ve had several big ones drop branches that were too heavy to move without a saw.

      • We’ve had some ice storms in the past too, but nothing like this one. The only thing that comes close is one that hit Montreal 15 years ago that almost shut that city down. I remember images and stories from that one – and thinking – shit, that is what we’ve got on our hands. Scary, scary stuff.

        I really love the locale of my property – but during bad weather it does tend to feel a bit dicey…

  4. Wow! It is hard to believe that it can get that COLD when I’m sitting here in So Cal and the temps today will be 75 F or so…. Of course the trade off is our summers but seldom does it get to be life threatening like that! I’m glad to hear you have both gas and a fireplace…it’s hard to imagine what people without them do. And good for you for seeing the good and the beauty in spite of it all. ~Kathy

    • That’s the funny thing – it never got that cold during the ice storm. It stayed right around 32 the entire time.

      That said, we had some brutally cold temps the past few days. So 34-36 feels absolutely mild by comparison today. 🙂 It’s all about perspective.

  5. It’s bad enough having to clean up after a summer storm, but to clean this destruction up in the dead of winter? Horrible. Glad you came out okay, though I’m sure it was a long couple days without power. But as you point out, “perspective is everything.” Damage aside, those pics really are quite pretty.

    • As I said, we really had nothing compared to some. Ed made it out with a chain saw borrowed from a neighbour to get rid of our side walkway debris and some of the stuff on the roof. The temps were mild so it wasn’t too bad. Would hate to be dealing with it during the temps we got around New Year’s Eve and the couple days that followed. That was brutal!

    • yeah, I’ve never seen anything like it in the 46 years I’ve lived here. Crazy! Fingers crossed the worst is over. And only 9 days til I get back to Vegas. Hopefully by the time I return at the end of February winter will be whimpering off into the distance. 🙂

  6. I love some of the pictures, much like I love to watch the ocean before a storm. It can be lovely……and deadly.

    I’m so glad you didn’t have any more damage than you did and that no one in your family was injured. It really is a matter of perspective. You are so right. Thank you for the reminder, as I continue days where I start a walk and think it will never be over. I need to be thankful I can do it and enjoy the time alone.

    • I’ve never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve lived here (46). Around 15 years ago a massive ice storm hit Quebec, and I remember being horrified and awed by the devastation it caused. Little did I know it would hit Toronto many years later. Scary stuff, but beautiful, for sure.

  7. Yikes….what a storm. Glad you survived with minor damage. Let’s hope this arctic blast has moved on in time for you to enjoy your Vegas trip. It’s unusually frigid in south Texas but still better than what my poor dad is enduring in the Chicago burbs. Stay warm 🙂

  8. Ice storm is nothing I’d like to experience again. What you wrote, and the pictures, reminded me of the 1998 ice storm in Washington D.C./Maryland. We endured 3 days at home w/o power but then moved in with our friends who lived in a condo complex with power. I’m happy you guys were fairly lucky! Stay warm now 🙂

    • So much scarier than a snow storm. With snow you just have to be careful on the roads, but ice…ice can be devastating. Thankfully it’s over and unlikely to happen at that magnitude again. Thanks for your warm thoughts!

  9. It really is odd how something so beautiful can be so destructive. I really dislike winter but I love being out when everything is shining with ice. But the damage it causes is truly scary. And it takes a long time for trees to recover… I’m glad your house fared relatively well through all of that!

    • I keep reading reports on how many (older) neighborhoods were decimated, from a tree perspective. We are very fortunate Toronto is such a green city – compared to most urban centres, but boy oh boy did that hurt us in this ice storm. Very sad to see so many beautiful big trees come down.

  10. Oh, I feel for those whose property was destroyed by frozen falling trees! I love how you changed your perspective though and from far away, here in FL, those pictures of frozen trees really look exquisite. Nothing is perfect, I suppose all beauty has its dark side and vice versa.

  11. That’s a great reflection on a trying experience. So glad you kept a photo diary. I hesitate to say the photos are beautiful when there is so much destruction as well. Hope everything is back to normal now.

    • Other than frigid cold and massive piles of fallen branches along the side of the road, awaiting pickup by the city, it seems things are pretty much back to normal. Hope you are staying safe out there. It seems the entire continent is under this deep freeze. 😦

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