Blackout in Ontario

If you are a fan of sound effects, scroll to the end and click play to enjoy as you read 🙂

Pounding rain, the sky ablaze, lit only with the flashes of a myriad of lightning bolts, deafening rolls of thunder resounding again and again, the gentle flicker of candlelight illuminating a house stripped of power; probably not your archetypal wedding memories but these are the images that are forever seared into the memory of my sister’s wedding.

We first notice the colour of the sky in the rear view mirror on our way to the rehearsal. The change starts out slow, the subdued tones of the late afternoon sky giving way to a shade somewhere between a dusty blue and a milky grey. Like a muted kaleidoscope, the rural Ontario sunset drained of its vibrancy as if someone had placed a filter over our eyes and turned up the sepia dial until the hues faded into the background.

Looks a little ominous, we chuckle but only a short while later the innocuous vista in the rear-view mirror has transformed into a formidable sight; deep navy billows rolled in with gunshot grey and misty black the afternoon twilight lost somewhere between storm and night.


We try to out-drive it but we can see it tracking us in the distance. “I dos” are practiced and readings rehearsed, with mild trepidation in anticipation of what is to come. No sooner have we relaxed and the clap of thunder reminds us that our earlier visions in the rear view mirror were no illusion.

The first flashes arrive followed quickly by beating rain and thunderous growls, giving us a taste of the storm’s appetite. No one can quite believe the force of the rain drops, beating down on the ground as if we are in a war zone, suddenly besieged by a torrent of artillery fire. It’s make or break, now or never and in the 20 seconds it takes to reach the car we are drenched through to our undergarments, teeth chattering wringing out puddles of rain water into our now sodden laps.

Drops propelling from the windshield we inch our way out, bringing back memories of what it was like to be 6 years old and taken through a drive-through car wash, the same menacing sounds and rhythmic beating on the windows except this is no machine, this is Mother Nature showing us her true extreme.

We’ve been driving forever surely we must be close? It’s tense and dramatic and confusing all at once, compounded by our observation that it is suddenly extremely dark.

A fading iphone screen and the shimmer from a single decorative candle is the scene that greats us as we fumble our way inside. The sound of nervous laughter echos through the halls. Some of our acquaintances are already here, we don’t all know each other yet but in the darkness we are all friends, companions, comrades. The remaining members of the wedding party trickle in after their treacherous drives. More candles are lit and start to brighten the corners of the room. Snacks are opened, bottles uncorked, beer is drunk, wine slowly supped, nervous chitter chatter starts to relax into fluid conversation.

Without light, music and television, voices are hushed, laughter is gentle. The intimacy of the moment is magnified by the mystery of what we cannot see.

There are the bride and groom-to-be, the British Belle with her Canadian homme. There are the Brits who live in Britain, the Canadians who live in Canada, the Brits and Canadians who live in America and not forgetting the Canadians who used to live in America and now live back in Canada. There are the urbanites, the suburban folk and the countryside dwellers. There are the Grandmas and pas, mums and dads, husbands and wives, children and babies and everything in between.

It’s the kind of situation that only a wedding can bring about; a mishmash of people interconnected by blood, duty, life experiences and sometimes coincidence; a group unlikely to ever come together organically.

Munching on tortilla chips and sipping red wine, I notice the wine is Chilean and I am again reminded of how small the world has become. Sitting here in the dark with my Chilean husband, British family and Canadian about-to-be in-laws in the rural periphery of London, Ontario. My sister born in the outskirts of London, England now about to marry her Canadian fiancĂ© born in the outskirts of London, Ontario. They met working on a cruise ship in the North Pacific Ocean – it’s the kind of curious serendipity that keeps people believing in those bizarre things such as destiny and soulmates.

The bride-to-be nervously runs her fingernails under her teeth, resisting the urge to bite at her perfectly manicured nails. She’s running out of computer battery to send out those all-important last emails but the outage will force her to rest soon.

Watching the storm from the sheltered space that has become our refuge there is electricity, energy, rawness and connection.

Isn’t that why we’re all here after all?

And herein lies the beauty. In the darkness we are stripped of our masks and distractions. There is no iphone to scroll through, television to absorb or music to distract, only soft candlelight and heartening conversation.

The darkness lets us be seen for who we are, no mask, unfiltered, sincere.

It allows us to converse and connect with these unsuspecting souls whose life courses have happened to bring them to this space where we find all ourselves now.

The blackout heavies our eyelids and forces us into bed earlier than we otherwise would go. The power is still out but the storm has subsided and the calm it brings has soothed us into deep slumber, preparing us for the adventures the next day will bring. Of course tomorrow there will be prosecco-drinking, vow saying, speech reading, hors-d’ourve eating, photo taking and merriment making, but for now there is stillness. The storm has settled and the air is clear,  all is calm now.


Storm photo credit: thanks to Andy Pollock for snapping pics while I was too busy chatting and for allowing me to use!


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