There are some years which are just sort of definitive, and 2011 is up there, but so far nothing has topped 2008. I’d kind of like to keep it that way. When someone talks about that year, I have this brain surge which, if it were to verbalise, would go something like this:
“Oh–the year I embarked on my first real and long-term romantic relationship and my niece was born and my book got published and the Family of Six moved in before moving overseas and the kitten stowed away across state lines in the engine of their car and disembarked at my house and I started working at Now Church and I got diagnosed with breast cancer and the Ice Storm nearly stole Christmas . . . ” Only when it goes through my head it’s a lot faster than it takes to type it or read it or say it.
Because of the snow storm we had two weekends ago, and the fact that it took four days to get power back, which is only two days less than the six it took to get it back after the Ice Storm, I’ve been thinking about that year a lot, and I even went back to my old blog and reread some of my entries (particularly the ones surrounding the Ice Storm, naturally). I was very struck by how differently I reacted to a very similar scenario this time as compared to the last time.
Last time I was beyond stressed, and for good reason. I had (as evidenced by the run-on sentence paragraph above) already had quite the busy year, and I was just on the verge of starting radiation therapy after my cancer surgery. I really wasn’t much more than a few prods away from a catatonic fetal position, I don’t think, and those old blog posts evidence that quite well. I don’t blame myself for it in the least, but I must admit I’m pleased that I’m not reacting quite the same way this time around.
On Sunday after the snow fell and the power went out, I stoically set about keeping the wood stocked up in the house and the fire going in the wood stove. I tried to read a lot, and I guess I read more than I usually do these days, but I kept having to hop up to put more wood in the stove, or to top off the buckets and bins and lobster pot in which I was storing snow for water. The great thing about having well water (as opposed to municipal water) is that . . . well, it generally tastes better, and one hopes it’s healthier, too, but the bad thing about it is that when there’s no electricity, there’s no water either. Fortunately I had bought a few large bottles of water for the hurricane and had ended up not using them, so I had something to drink, but I also needed something for washing up and flushing toilets.
The snow was very wet and heavy, but it still “shrinks down” considerably after it melts, so even though I tried to pack it firmly into the containers I had set aside, I kept having to go out and put more snow in there. I don’t remember where I first learned you could flush a toilet by dumping a bucket of water down it, but I’m pretty sure it was when I was a little kid in Honduras, and I’ve had a few other times where I’ve needed to utilise that knowledge. The trick is you have to have a decent amount of water to get enough force going–thus the constant snow-refills. There were little bits of twigs and leaves and things that ended up in the water because they had been in the snow, so I was grateful I had bottled water to drink, although if I hadn’t, I would have been willing to boil the snow for a while if I needed to. That was another skill I learned as a child in Honduras. And that you can pour salt on slugs to kill them. That particular knowledge was not apropos to this snow storm, but I should have considered it over the summer when the slugs were eating my tomatoes . . .
That first night I set up a bunch of candles and read for few hours by their light and that of a flashlight. It was cosy and I was rather proud of myself for being so resourceful and self-sufficient. But the thing was, I had gone to the Good Neighbours’ that afternoon to use their shower, because they have a generator, and I had got out of the house in the sunshine to go get gas for my car. It still wasn’t exactly roughing it. And after that I basically spent the night at a different friend’s house every night until the power came back on Wednesday afternoon. It could, theoretically, have stayed off for another four days at least if I were to have availed myself of all the invitations I received. My friends are amazing. (They were in 2008, too.)
All the same, the experience made me think how much I take for granted and how much electricity and water I could conserve if I just did things a little differently. Sometimes I feel like we in this country are living this magical existence that really shouldn’t be possible, and one of these days the spell is going to break and we’re going to have to “do for ourselves” a little more manually and a lot more like most of the rest of the world, or like our ancestors. The four days of no electricity felt like the spell was getting holes in it and we had just landed in one for a little while.
But the electricity came back on and the hole closed up and lots of people seem already to have forgotten that we even had a freak October snowstorm. And I have resumed flushing toilets. Like the other people in Magic Land.