toronto_skyline_sampsonWe were at home when the lights went out ten years ago.  From “the brow” above Hamilton we can see a great distance … on a clear day as far as the Toronto CN tower.  We did not know what was happening, but obviously it was huge.

dfgesdreAll this happened because a tree branch fell on a power line in Ohio!  We are all so interconnected, and therefore vulnerable to events that are unexpected and uncontrolled. Here are the CBC reports on what happened.

So after waiting for hours and attempting unsuccessfully to find news on the car radio, we ate a simple candle-lit meal and finished all the ice cream.

It was a humid August night, with an indigo blue velvet sky, and we settled down to watch the stars as we had never seen them before.  How romantic… our 39th wedding anniversary was the next day.

We live only a kilometer from the “hydro corridor” that sweeps through Ontario.  The hydro lands provide welcome green space, a continuous meadow that is roughly cut a few times a year, but remains a source of delight.


Insights and Intuitions: Twenty-Five Images for a Trip Down Memory Lane
Ellen Collington, 2007
Free motion machine embroidery on creme silk, mounted on velvet
prepared for the 25th anniversary challenge of the Hamilton Quilters Guild

Hydro towers are so important and so beautiful.  When I made this wall hanging celebrating twenty-five significant influences and events in my life, I had to include one.  The 30″ wall hanging itself is black velvet, and the silk tiles are free motion embroidered on my domestic machine.  When I do a trunk show or visitors see it for the first time, it is fun to hear how  others try to interpret each image… there’s a story for each, but they are not all that obvious, even to those who know me well.  The hydro tower is often the most puzzling.

As I completed each tile I also wrote a journal entry about the image.


Point of view is everything. I do try to think “outside the box,” but it is a rare event to lie prone under the center of a hydro tower and look straight up at its perfectly symmetrical design. It felt silly, but I am glad I did. I am fascinated by hydro towers.

Our morning walk…   goes right through the hydro corridor where there are several types of towers. Under them are rolling fields with tall weeds including chicory and dandelions, daisies, goldenrod and queen ann’s lace. We frequently see red-winged blackbirds and yellow finches in the swampy cattails on the west side; on the east side are large fields where we may see rabbits, or foxes, or deer. Our walk is quite varied. Going “up” the view is suburban; you face [a busy]intersection  and an ugly little strip mall; and you fight both the wind and the steep slope. Going “down” is easier and you have a broad expanse of country road and a vista of blue sky over the city below. And the hydro towers, of course, marching off into the distance in both directions. One summer there was a crew painting them! I envied them both the view and their nonchalant disdain for heights.

This is my Eiffel Tower. I know the Paris icon is taller, older, far more impressive and important. But I have more than one tower to enjoy, and I don’t need to get on an airplane and fight hordes of tourists to enjoy their simple strength and beauty.

These are the towers that have made Ontario a prosperous and interesting place to live, the towers that bring us industry and safety and comfort and convenience. From Niagara Falls they stride across the Niagara Escarpment, one of the world’s most precious biospheres, and along a green belt that cuts through the Ontario cityscape and countryside.

These gentle giants bring us all the things we love but take for granted… homes that are warm or cool at the push of a button, streetlights and stoplights, cooked food and clean water, recorded music and films and television, even the computer on which I am typing. I am grateful for all the wonders of modern medicine and information technology as well as the tools and appliances that make my day complete: toaster and microwave, sewing machine and serger, washer and dryer, iron and hairdryer. And my van, and the transportation, communication, and delivery systems that depend indirectly on hydro to keep the world running.

Last weekend we had a terrific March snowstorm that lasted for several days, but fortunately lacked the freezing rain that often brings down the hydro lines and damages the towers. How nice to gather around the fire-place at Apps Mill with my friends, enjoying a hot latte, and listening to the hum of the sewing machines. The caterer could not get up the hill to deliver more food, but we had everything we needed to enjoy what was there already. We were glad the hydro did not go off, and said so. It is good to acknowledge our good fortune once in a while.

I love what hydro-electric energy brings to my life. I also love the towers that deliver it with such elegant and dignified simplicity.

This is my 400th blog… our 49th wedding anniversary is later this week… and the hydro is ON!  All reasons to celebrate.

Where were you when the lights went out?

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5 Responses to Stargazing

  1. debbierodgers says:

    I was at home in Nova Scotia, watching it all on television. For some reason, we didn’t lose our power – and we were very grateful. I didn’t remember that it was a tree branch in Ohio that caused all that chaos.

    I’ve often looked at the towers, noticing the different patterns, but I can’t say I’ve ever thought them beautiful. Perhaps I need to revisit that. 🙂

    I just read a review for a book called One Second After by William R. Forstchen. The premise is that “a hostile government or well-funded terrorist organization manages to explode a nuclear device over the United States at precisely the correct altitude needed to unleash an enormous electromagnetic pulse that will [fry every electrical device in what appears to be (at least) most of the United States into permanent uselessness].” Sounds like something you might find interesting since it evidently shows the extent to which society relies on electric power.

    A very interesting post, Ellen!

    • motleydragon says:

      Good to hear from you again! I will look for that book. I am preparing to lead my book group through The Children of Men by P.D.James… a terrifying dystopian novel about infertility and the end of civilization… quite outside her usual style. My friends were all so glad when I chose PDJ. Little did they suspect that this is not Dagleish conducting yet another mind boggling interview in some eccentric UK location.

  2. debbierodgers says:

    And congratulations on 49 years together. Well-done!

  3. Curmudgeon Bludgeon says:

    >> Where were you when the lights went out?

    At a local recycling store, mooching from the free books table, lol. Where else?

    Forty-nine years is pretty damn impressive, I must say. That’s lucky 7 squared. The next step up would be 343, which is probably too much even for the most *solid* of relationships (even if Platonic). Is it too late to say congratulations?

    Congratulations. And many happy returns of the day.

    Incidentally I like your quilt. Too bad it’s hard to see the details. You should take a picture at a higher resolution maybe. As for the meaning of the various images, at least one is obvious enough: you’re a little dog with black ears and a black nose who likes to sit at a computer and blog, amirite?

    p.s. 400!

    • motleydragon says:

      Thanks CB. I”m glad you like the quilt. I want to blog about it again, and you are correst that I need better photos. I thought I might stop at 400 blogs, but I am enjoying it. At least I have cut back on my computer hours while we are so busy here at home.

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