"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ice in the Bathtub: Winter Storm Report

The good news:

* we have 2 fireplaces at the Lodge and when the storm hit, dry wood stored in the garage.

* we have a gas-powered range, so with the flick of the match I can whip up nourishing and tasty meals on the stovetop.

* we store many, many gallon jugs of water in case the power is out for longer than a few hours. Which, until Thurs. night, it never, ever was!

* we keep a ton of tinned goods in our cupboard. However, as long as the fridge was cool, or the ambient temperature of the house is fridge-like, we can eat "real" food, so the only time we opened a can was because we actually wanted tomato soup--as comfort food on the coldest day.

* our phone was out for 2 days but miraculousy came back on yesterday. I found out when my dear, dear British friend I saw in London recenttly, who lives in France, rang us up from Colorado (where she and her husband are skiing) to check if we were ok.

* the chest freezer in the downstairs utility room kept our frozen goods frozen through the weekend.

* the freezer here at the church in the village is completely empty, so there was room in the freezer for all our meat and seafood!

* this village that I so proudly represent in the Legislature installed free public wi-fi on Main Street a few months ago. So when I brought our freezer food to church (located on Main Street) I also brought our laptop.

* the Chap's office has a health club with showers. So he's really clean today. And his office is holding their big Christmas party (postponed from Friday).

* the 3-candle candelier I purchased at Kittery Trading Post during the pre-Y2K panic, and have hardly ever used, turns out to one of the best buys I ever made.

The not so good news:

* the Lodge is a mostly open concept home. High ceilings which permit lovely tall Christmas trees make rooms that are difficult to heat. The only rooms with doors are the bedrooms, lavatories, and utility rooms. The first day we settled in the downstairs sitting room (has a fireplace) but eventually we moved upstairs to the master bedroom (with a fireplace and doors). But even there the ceiling pitch is exactly the same as the upstairs sitting room--where the Xmas tree is--so the warmest spot of all is right beside the fireplace.

* we've lost some big hemlocks but nothing fell near the house...the birches were bent to the ground, heavy with ice...

...but with the thaw, they're springing back.

* the temperature was in single digits some of Sat. and Sat. night. To keep warm, I stayed in bed, under the covers, all day Saturday.

* I'd filled the bathtub with water on Thurs., before the storm. On Saturday the water froze. It's still frozen. The sound I hate most is slamming a saucepan through that thick ice to get water to boil for hair- and dishwashing.

* the ice-covered trees were beautiful in the sunshine, but even so I found it hard to admire them.

* Our best light sources rely on D batteries or lantern batteries. When the batteries ran down, the Chap made a run to every hardware store in a 12-mile radius, but there are none to be had!

* while the prospect of sitting or lying about for days on end sounds like a reader's/writer's dream, on dim days there's never really enough light to read by, and when the ambient temperature is cold enough to freeze the water in your bathtub, your hands can get too cold to hold a book or a pen and paper. I did manage to sit by the fire yesterday to practise the mandolin (Advent and Christmas carols) but it was sort of painful.

What I've discovered:

Where do I begin?

I now know that staring into a fireplace hours--days--on end is entertainment in and of itself. The play of the light, the shifting glow of the coals.

Having dogs might prevent you seeking refuge in a shelter (which we never seriously considered, having fireplaces and a stove), but they are damn good company in a crisis. Jewel is a terrific footwamer (she has appropriated the foot stool) and Ruth warms us with her love.

We had expected to spend the weekend at holiday parties. Instead, we spent it in survival mode. Two parties were postponed, one was cancelled outright. I expected to spend today all obssessed by an official announcement which some legislators learned about in the hours before the storm hit. The last calls I got before the phone went out were messages of congratulation. More on that later.

This was supposed to be a busy week of meetings, diocesan and legislative, an all-day orientation. Perhaps it still will be. Since 168,000 are just like us, still waiting for electrical power, and like us, still focussed on survival, I make no assumptions.

The thing I'm most happy about at the moment: no longer needing to conserve wood. Our supply was limited to what we had dry in the garage, and it certainly wasn't going to last the week. (They say some places won't get power on till then.) Our nearest neighbour, a Very Good Man, very kindly shared some of his.

Yesterday the Chap rang up a local woodman, and within a couple of hours a cord of word was delivered to the Lodge. Regular price, no price gouging or anything.

Ever since, we've been feeding our fires with abandon! Big, great, roaring, hissing, popping fires. Loud enough to drown out the sound of the neighbour's generator, and the frequent whine of power saws.

A thousand thanks for the good wishes. All is well, so far.

I like to think that now I've secured our frozen foods, I'll get home to find the power turned on in my absence. I'm not terribly optimistic. I think something rather catastrophic occurred to the lines and poles out on the hillsides or in the valleys, because the area to the south of us and the area to the north of us (where this church is located) have their power restored.

That's another thing I've discovered. Even when I can see my breath inside your house, and my bathtub water is frozen, and there's not a D battery to be had for miles and miles, and my hands and toes are chilled to the bone, I still have hope!

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