“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Twenty Three Hours

My biggest fear a few days ago as we prepared for the worst of the snow storm was family members stuck in their cars trying to get home. The storm started in the late afternoon. But 6:30pm I had shovelled the driveway twice, with several inches both times. It takes about 45 minutes to shovel the driveway. By the time I was finishing the second round my husband arrived home, my son was safely at a friends, and our daughter was home.

I sighed with relief. Dinner was ready and we were prepared. Later, while watching a television show, the lights flickered. And a few minutes later the power went out. It was 8:30pm. Actually, the power outage left us with low level power, like a brown-out. So we had some low level light, as if all the lamps had 10 watt bulbs in them. But not enough wattage to recharge cell phones, charge computers, run a television, light the oven, or run the furnace. We did have hot water and I could light the stove top with a match. So. We made hot tea and climbed into bed and watched a movie on my computer until the battery died. I thought we'd have power some time in the middle of the night.

The next morning dawned to intense lake-effect snow. We were snowed in, unable to open doors to the outside. Snow drifts piled from three to five feet, maybe more. And the house was cold. I managed to make some coffee in the stove-top espresso maker, added hot chocolate and scalded milk - rich, satisfying mocha lattes. We got the dogs outside. And then pondered what to do?

Do we start to shovel our way out, even though it is still snowing? And, without power how were we going to get the snow-blower out of the garage? There's no second door on this garage, just a small window. Eventually I climbed through the window and opened the garage from the inside. We shovelled and snowblowed and after about three hours had the driveway clear. The same one that was taking me, one person, 45 minutes to shovel, now took three hours for two of us, a shovel and a snow blower, to clear. But by the time we finished the sun was shining and snow had stopped.

The rest of the day was spent in bed. I had to wrap my Ruby-dog, the short haired highly sensitive Viszla, in her sweater and her blanket (think horse blankets that strap on), just to keep her from shivering non-stop. We all, dogs, cats, humans, staying in bed, covered, listening to the one radio with a battery. I read and knitted. I made tea. And we waited.

The most discouraging was the inability for the electric company to give us any kind of an estimate on when the power would be back on. We understood, but we were worried. With temperatures expected to plunge to minus 2 and the house already cold, we were not certain we would be able to stay warm enough.

We ran the shower and steamed up the upstairs. We lit every candle we could find. We closed off all the rooms we were not using and closed the door to our bedroom - hoping that steam, and candle heat, and human heat, and dog heat, and all of us snuggled under covers, would keep us all warm enough.

Finally at 4:00 the electric company gave us a status update - 4:45 for power. But 4:45 came and went and no power. The sun was setting and it was getting colder! The next status update - 6:45. We hunkered down and prayed, and hoped. Finally at 7pm the power came on. Just. Like. That.

23 hours. A storm I will never forget. All I could think is, it could be worse. I could have been in my car, stuck somewhere outside.