Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Day Seven of The Bottom

In April of 1815 something happened on a mountain in the East Indies that caused a bit of a fuss. Mount Tambora erupted. It was the biggest event of its kind in over a thousand years. It shot enough smoke and sulfur into the air that the climate couldn't digest it. The sky went dark and dirty low clouds sunk across the landscape like tired ghosts. What little sunlight got through wasn't strong enough to grow crops or let animals know when to breed or lay eggs. And it all happened on one day, in one place, and made ripples that changed the world.

The darkness moved across the globe like a plague. By spring of 1816 something called a “dry fog” was floating across the Eastern United States, right where Cold Antler resides. It was so dark during the day that sunspots could be seen from earth. Do you know what that means? It means there was such a thick fog of pollution you could look directly at the sun and see it blazing with its own eruptions with your naked eye. People were terrified, certain it was the End Times the bible had predicted. And then things got worse.

It was called The Year Without a Summer. The name fit because frost covered New England fields through all of May. Nothing would grow and it SNOWED on June 16th. Frosts continued through July and August. Nothing was able to be produced that year, livestock died from the lack of fodder, and many people starved. This was 1816 after all. You ate what your community produced or could afford to buy in. Farmers left for the Midwest in droves, hoping it would be better. Only those with heavy larders and deep pockets survived. The rest died or fled.

It wasn’t just North America that was affected. While it was snowing that summer in Veryork people in Europe were also experiencing insane weather thanks to the volcano. It was cold, rainy, and otherwise well-off people in southern Britain were begging in the streets. Germany had record spikes in food prices. Rivers turned to ice. Panic was the new normal as people accepted summer wasn't returning and amidst all this chaos some writers thought it would be a good time to get away from the cities. They gathered on Lake Geneva (near the Swiss/French border) to ride out the cold, rainy, summer on a cold, rainy, lake.Writers are the worst.

A man named Percy brought his mistress (at the time) with him to the house he was sharing with his writer friends. Her name was Mary. She was so bored, so dishearten by the awful doomsday summer she suggested a scary story writing contest. There she wrote a book you may have heard of; Frankenstein. And Science Fiction, an entire genre, was born because of a volcano and a lot of dead farmers, cows, and wildlife. 

It all makes a burst pipe seem like a lot less of a big deal...

That’s why I’m sharing this story. Sometimes horrible things happen when Mother Nature gets pissed off and you don't know the reason until farther down the road. Right now all this winter is to me is something to survive, something to just get through. This house is cold, the fires are fighting, the plumbing is shot, and I have a bucket of water near my toilet so I can refill the tank to flush. It sucks, but at least no super volcanoes erupted last April to black out our sun!

A gal's gotta take whatever silver linings she can gather, folks.

I have food. I have water. I have sunlight, friends, and zero need to call for a scary story contest to become the figure head of a literary genre. It's a relief. I am mostly excited just to see this coming Monday when temperatures might rise above freezing for the first time since December 22nd. And I was able to order more firewood from Common Sense Farm, drive the truck to the IGA for water, and right now I'm dry with a roof over my head. If the world could get through that savage year and end up with Science Fiction - I can get my plumbing repaired and keep a blog going. I'm okay. I know when the plumber comes later this week he won't shake his head and tell me "It's world-wide famine" - It's just a burst pipe and the well is sound.

This is nearly the 200th anniversary of The Year Without a Summer and Frankenstein. Read the original again and picture Mary writing in while having an affair at a French lake house during a summer when most people thought the world was ending. You might appreciate it a little more. Or at least it will make this winter a little more tolerable?