Dancing in the dark – in the midst of a hurricane

In Atlantic Canada, the moment you think you have everything nailed down, a Category 2 storm decides to pop in

Alec BruceA word to the wise: A daily five-km fast walk and a nightly 15-minute endurance routine on a floor mat doesn’t prepare a 50-something body for a sudden dismount from a handstand – especially if said body lands on its tippy toes, like Baryshnikov on a really, really bad morning.

Crunch!” was the sound heard round the living room of the Bruce family homestead in Port Shoreham shortly after Labour Day not too many years ago.

To be clear, this wasn’t morning and I can’t confirm or deny the presence of certain liquid substances at the ready to lubricate the traditional family party that, thanks to a wide variety of eclectic music on hand, tends to drown out the yipping and yapping of the ever-increasing population of coyotes on dark, starry Guysborough nights.

What I can confirm is the solicitude of my wife, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and a close friend from England. We had been dancing for hours, affecting every style – from punk, to doo-wop, to head-banger, to ballroom, to the hokey-pokey – before I managed in one fell swoop (literally) to crack my foot.

“I think it looks dislocated,” my wife helpfully advised, having surveyed the 90-degree angle the big toe on my right foot had assumed.

“Maybe you could pop it back in,” my nephew offered.

“I don’t think it’s broken,” my niece observed. “Can you move it?”

I looked at all of them as if they were terrorists intent on hobbling me forever.

“Look away,” I instructed. “I will handle this.”

And so I did. I grabbed the offending appendage and hauled it over to the neutral position. “Crunch!” was the sound heard round the living room, again. And the dancing continued, as it most certainly should have (sans moi, bien sur).

In fact, there’s no better way to appreciate the Maritime spirit than from a reclined position. The odd mood of contemplation that injury and humiliation engender is a priceless asset in the ancient effort to get back onto one’s feet.

Sitting on the couch, watching them all dance like fools, I remembered why my wife and I and our grown children, with children of their own, fully appreciate this part of the world.

This is where the main chance hits the yellow brick road. This is where fantasy meets reality and you slide down the rabbit hole with both. This is where, the moment you think you have everything nailed down in Bristol fashion, you break your foot.

Or a Category 2 hurricane decides to pop in. That was last week (again, shortly after Labour Day).

As the tempest, ominously named Dorian, approached from the south like a relentlessly advancing army, we prepared in the northeast like a relentlessly cheerful Scout troop. Extra water? Check. New batteries? Check. Camp stove and fuel? Check.

The lights went out and stayed out. The world outside our front door in the busiest, most populous city on Canada’s East Coast was as empty as a coyote trail after nightfall. We sat on chairs – my wife and I – and talked about the past, the storm, the future.

The news from the little radio was grim. Hurricanes like this were becoming more common, more frequent. A sinkhole the size of Central Park threatened to swallow the town of Oxford, N.S., which was, at that moment, being lashed by 130-km/h winds.

This summer, an expert reported, had been the warmest since record-keeping began.

What’s more, for the first time in years, my foot began to ache.

I smiled at my wife. “Shall we dance?”

And so we did. She pranced like a gazelle; I limped like a troll.

But, like all good Maritimers in times of trouble, at least we danced.

Alec Bruce is a Halifax journalist who writes about business, politics and social issues, and editor of Troy Media Partner news site The Bluenose Bulletin..

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