(Unnar Ýmir Björnsson/Flickr)

Tlellagraph: No power, no problem

By Janet Rigg

I’ve been out with a concussion for the past three weeks. I like to put it that way, because it makes me feel like a hockey player. But that’s a story for my next column. For now, it’s the tale of the Tlellian Christmas Dinner of 2018: No power, no problem!

High winds were expected, but we soldiered on without concern. We all arrived on Saturday afternoon at the Fall Fairgrounds, the totes of random Christmas decorations in tow, just as the power went out. We sat and looked at each other, and then scattered to amass flashlights and lanterns. My more practical husband nipped off to get a generator, and soon there was enough power and light to allow this most spectacular Tlellian holiday tradition.

These totes open up, and seem to magically deposit their various, mismatched wares on every wall and beam in the building. It seems like we don’t know where to start — we all look at each other and wonder who is in charge, but then all just take something and make it work. The result is beautiful chaos, in a true Tlellian way.

Satisfied with the decorations, we all headed home hoping the power would come back on in time for the dinner the following night. It didn’t. The winds only increased to a point I’ve only seen once before in my 12 years on island. The roar of the winds through the trees was impressive, and we all snuggled in and battened down the hatches.

As is the way on Haida Gwaii, the winds died down suddenly and completely sometime on Sunday morning. But the damage was extensive. There was a pine tree hanging on the wires in front of our house, and reports of multiple trees down all over the highway. Down toward John and Jennifer’s, and Vince and Stacey’s, the blow-down was considerable.

Without power, we wondered about the feasibility of cooking turkeys, hams, potatoes, and other fine foods for our fine feast. There was a moment when we thought about cancelling. However, Tlell isn’t one to give up, and enough working ovens were located, and hams were boiled instead of baked. I finished off glazing my ham on the BBQ, and it actually turned out really well.

The random Christmas lights were quickly re-jigged to need only one or two extension cords plugged into the generator. The small PA system was set up, and food — nice and warm — came flooding in. It was a nice break from being in the quiet of our own homes, gathering as communities do. I’m hopeful that everyone who wanted to be there was there, as a few may have assumed we would cancel.

However, Santa was on his way, and we weren’t going to disappoint the big jolly man. Christmas carols were sung by our reluctant (and unrehearsed) Tlell Children’s Christmas Choir, but magic filled the room when Father Christmas arrived. Gifts were given, wishes silently whispered into Santa’s ears, and gasps of joy and delight were heard as gifts were opened.

Then the Tlellians filled their plates with leftovers, and went off into the dark night, still hoping for power to be restored soon.

I want to extend a huge thank you to all the Christmas elves that made that dinner happen, despite the weather adversity. The decorators, the deliverers of hams and turkey, the organizers, the shoppers, the emcee, and all those community members that came out to share in the cheer. It couldn’t have happened without you.

This year I wasn’t so involved, as this concussion keeps me on the sidelines, so I’m ever more grateful for those who stepped up to fulfill my tasks. Stay tuned for next week’s column: An Unfortunate Encounter with a Low Beam, But I Won’t Let it Go To My Head.

Email sewnart@haidagwaii.net with your storm stories of holiday cheer. Happy Solstice!

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