"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Diary of a Power Outage


Day One:

9:35 P.M. The power fails, plunging the house into darkness.

I rush to the window and look out to be sure that none of my neighbors have power. Not that I want them to suffer, but there’s safety in misery. They don’t, so I relax. I try to remember where I put the emergency box with the candles, butane lighter, flashlights and spare batteries. By the time I find it my husband has used his smart phone to find his flashlight and he’s tossing another log onto the fire. It blazes light into the living room.

I stand there, staring stupidly at the light switch as if it is all a mistake. Later, I shut off all the lights I can remember having turned on, and head for bed. After all, what else can one do without electricity? Rhetorical question. Google shows the most popular month for births is August, so probably lots of power outage babies—so technically I’ve answered my own question.  

Day Two:

I awaken to an incredibly quiet house. No blue lights, no blinking numbers, no alarms to tell me to wake up, to drink my coffee, to shut the refrigerator door. This stillness produces panic, frustration and an immediate desire to finish any of a dozen projects I’ve been putting off. I make a silent vow that if the power comes back on, I will: 1) Sort out my mother-in-law’s memorabilia trunks that have been sitting in a corner since her death several years ago. 2) Wash the windows inside and out, despite the snow. 3) Clean the garage.

But no deal. I pull on layers of clothing to compensate for the lack of heat and prepare for the worst.

I cobble together a breakfast that features dry cereal and milk. Steve places a bagel into the toaster oven and stares dumbly when it doesn’t work. I pull a mandarin orange from a bowl and let Steve have the lone boiled egg.  

We take a walk around the farm to see the snowfall, Back home we strategize and make a list. We assign bathrooms. I get the one closest to the heat. As the day progresses, I realize how many things I have to be grateful for. For starters, a power unit in our Dodge pickup that charges cell phones and Tablets while the truck is off. A hardline phone that never fails us. Drop-dead beautiful snowfall. A freezer full of venison and wild turkey. Milk in the refrigerator. A husband who gets going when the going gets tough.

After checking on our elderly neighbors, we make a quick run to town for supplies and a hot meal at Applebees, and arrive home with plenty of daylight left. We restock the woodpile outside the living room door. I melt snow and wash the dishes. This is starting to be fun.  

I find the emergency radio and enough D batteries that I am able to listen to PBS, always comforting, while I gather Christmas ornament tubs so that I can undecorate the tree after the sun goes down (a deliciously tactile experience, touching favorite ornaments and wrapping them.) By the time I light the Kerosene lamp, Steve has a small generator running to recharge the freezer, with an extension cord dedicated to a lamp. He plans to carry the generator across the snow to the pumphouse at midnight, to power the floodlight that keeps the pipes from freezing until he gets around to insulating them. Something tells me he’ll do that carpentry project soon. 

In the early evening the fire is crackling and the room is alive and cozy with unspoken thoughts. Steve sits beside me, reading while the generator outside purrs power to the lamp. Not really roughing it, but enough of a change to shake up the routine. Someone pinch me. I could do this for another day or two.     
    
After re-reading Christmas cards and taking the tree down, I make woodstove chocolate pudding. Yum. The ancient hard line phone rings. It’s my sister, who asks if I’m busy. Heck no. We have a long conversation in the semi-darkness and it seems like I am a better listener with no distractions. Later, bedtime comes with reluctance. The day has been delightful.

Day Three:

I open the door to a world blasted white with new snow. Filled with purpose, I shift into survival mode and scoop white stuff into tubs to replenish the tanks in the toilets. Life is good. We pile the refrigerator contents into an ice chest and burrow it in a snowbank. Later we discover that a critter has taken off with the bacon. We find the packaging discarded near the creek. If the culprit is our new four-month-old puppy, we should have the evidence soon enough.  

It’s strange how small details become noticeable in silence—like when you notice the middle child more when his big brothers aren’t around commanding all the attention. I rediscover my exercise bike and peddle five miles. I haul the Indian rugs outside and pound them, something I’ve meant to do for ages. We move the refrigerator and sweep behind it. Breakfast is an improvement: packets of gourmet instant coffee I’ve been meaning to use, GF pumpkin muffins, a Christmas gift, and eggs boiled on the wood stove. Lunch will be a picnic of cold cuts and chips in the living room while we watch the fire. After that it’s time for our afternoon trek down the lane to get the mail and newspaper.

After the walk I smile with anticipation. Soon it will be dark and we can do it all over again.

But wait—what is that commotion? Blue lights, beeping, flashing lights. I feel assaulted. Noise and confusion as the lights come on and the power grid resumes its grip on all that we hold dear. The TV reboots and some inane movie with guns blasting invades our peace. I shut it off. We decide to pile into the Jeep and take a drive to Galice, to see the snow pack along the Rogue River.

Now it’s night again. And I’m back on the computer and my husband is watching TV. All it would take is to shut it off again. But we don’t. You know we won’t. We’re modern.