As we hunkered down for the winter storm that blew across Cape Cod this past weekend, I couldn't stop thinking of 1700 Cape Cod.
Inside our house, we listened to the constant roaring of the wind. Every once in a while, it would gust to over 75mph. We only received 14 inches of snow but other places on the Cape accumulated totals up to 32 inches. As the temperatures plummeted into the teens and the power went out Saturday morning, I felt my bones chill anticipating the cold night ahead of us.
Looking out our dark and snow covered house, I thought of how the early Cape Codders fared in winter storms that blasted the coastline.
We had insulated our 1890 home to modern day standards and had use of a woodstove, gas stove and a cooking gas stove. Because of that we were able to enjoy hot drinks through most of the blustery day and ate a one-pan skillet of beans, hotdogs and biscuits at dusk.
Then, just as our ancestors did before us, we slept close to the fireplace and tried to amuse ourselves as best as we could in the dimly lit rooms. Tim kept bringing in firewood and we played cards for over 6 hours through the day and evening, finally going to bed early before 9pm.
As I lay in the dark, trying to sleep, I thanked the Lord that the old house had very few drafts, not like houses of centuries ago, when leaves, old rags, straw and grasses had to be stuffed into openings that were exposed to the frigid outside air. Of course, there were no worries about pipes freezing, there was no indoor plumbing. Snow melted by the hearth was all that was needed.
In my novel The Old Cape House, the main character Maria Hallett is banished in 1716 by the elders of the church for fornication and witchery. She tries to survive by herself in a shack on the bluffs of Eastham. It's winter, she's alone and has few supplies.
I close my eyes again, I can't get poor Maria out of my head.
My nose is cold. My feet are like ice.
Would I have survived in 1720? I think I could have but...
The next morning, the blizzard stopped and the sun came out against a brilliant blue sky. It cast long, luxurious shadows across the glistening white snow. My heart sang as a new day broke the storm.
Legends label poor Maria a witch, but legends sometimes are only myths and never proven, which is why optimism rules in my soul and I try to write new endings to old tales.