It’s the first full day of spring on the South Road. And it’s snowing.
In this household, this is known as “The Sheila” the last storm of the season.
Years ago, when I worked as a CBC Radio producer in Nova Scotia, a professor of Celtic studies at St. Mary’s University told me the story of The Sheila. It is a storm around St. Patrick’s Day named in honour of Sheila – Patrick’s wife. Story goes that she and Patrick had a bit of a disagreement about whether he was going to leave the homestead and meet up with some fellows and share some brew. He might have had sainthood in his future, but he was a bit of a bad boy that way. She had a temper. And the powers of a sorceress apparently.
So as he was on his way out the door, she pulled a fast one. Conjured up a storm so intense that no one could venture out. And that was that.
Now I don’t have an Irish bone in my body. But I can’t resist a good yarn. So when I got home from work, Sheila and Patrick became a bedtime story. I embellished it with lots of dialogue and a bad Irish accent. My little girls were enchanted by the story of Sheila’s powers. And it has been told for years.
Decades later we still talk about The Sheila. And my youngest daughter, Rachel, who is quite the storyteller herself, could not believe that friends and acquaintances don’t all know about the origins of this last winter storm. It has been the subject of a barroom bet more than once. Patrick would be so pleased.
It is a good thing this story took root before the days of Google searches and Wikipedia. I recently looked this up to find that there are questions about whether there even was a Sheila.
But I can tell you this. There is always a surprise storm around St. Patrick’s Day. And every little girl needs a good sorceress story in her back pocket.