the sword of damocles

Around the corner from our house is an old red-brick Victorian that’s seen better days.

With three stories and a wrap-around porch, it must have been nice once.  

But last winter the roof of that wrap-around porch was leaking.

By January, a giant icicle hung over the front door like the sword of Damocles hovering above anyone who came in or went out. Even when we walked by we tiptoed, afraid we’d cause a tremor and knock it loose.

I’ve been thinking a lot about icicles lately.

On neighbourhood walks with the dog, I’ve been examining them: some are skinny spears, others as fat as boa constrictors, hanging from the eaves.

It seems that every second house in this town has some remarkable construction of ice waterfalling from its roof.

Back in January the Federal Government announced some EcoPlan which promises a bunch of money to support alternative energies. It goes something like this: people who develop energy-efficient technologies will get money. So will homeowners who use geothermal, radiant heating, solar or wind to heat their houses.

As you can tell, I’m not totally up on the details but that’s because I’ve been too busy examining the icicles. I find myself shaking my head at how plentiful they are and thinking simple things, thoughts that would likely get me laughed clear out of Kyoto.

Why not start with everybody’s heat-leaking roof?

That’s what icicles mean, my husband explained to me shortly before I began venturing out daily on the Icicles of Orillia tour. It’s really quite simple: heat rises, heat seeps out the attic, heat melts the snow which runs and then freezes again.

So all these upside down geyser-like formations are actually energy, that stuff we’re supposed to be conserving. There it goes: bleeding away into the open winter air, doing nobody any good at all.

“Why doesn’t somebody just go around giving notices?,” I said to my husband one day.

“You know: your house is leaking, fix it.”

He laughed at me – like lots of people would – but to me it seems obvious. Why not start in our own backyard?

The difficulty, of course, is that a lot of these houses are rentals.

The sagging Victorian on the corner is practically a slum, its large parking lot scattered with garbage, a blanket hanging out of a broken window. There are kids living there. Cold ones, it would appear.  

It’s easy for people with money to take advantage of the government’s eco-options. It’s not so easy for people on low incomes.

And with the wage gap widening between the rich and the poor, exactly how much of the population can actually afford to put energy conservation first?

They’re pretty busy with those shiny swords hovering over their heads.     

One Response to the sword of damocles

  1. kathryn March 6, 2007 at 11:00 am #

    Loved this, Lauren. Damn, you’re a good writer. It’s always fun to read whatever you write…

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