Monday, September 12, 2011

Crazy weather, know what I'm saying?

I guess the official term is Hurricane Season. Though we haven't seen much in the way of apocalyptic destruction, we have had our share of Mother Nature this month.

Hurricane Irene, later downgraded to Tropical Storm Irene, took out a bunch of trees and put us out of power for almost a week. That was a trip. Camping at home! Luckily we had running water. Folks on well water did not, and that sucked. We even had hot water, thanks to the solar panels on the roof. The week after the storm was sunny and bright. Hot showers for all!

I saw downed trees all over the place during my runs that week. Most of the trees that had fallen in the woods were totally uprooted, as opposed to the downed trees in the neighborhood, which were mostly snapped and broken. It's sad to see these big, beautiful monsters lying on their sides. You know it took many, many years to grow so big.

It poured rain for a solid week after that. I cannot believe how much rain came out of the sky. I don't know why the whole town wasn't flooded, but it wasn't.

Thursday morning was just like all the rest. Pouring! Our ducks love this weather. Just after lunch I sent Nell out to gather them from the drainage ditch next door (recently transformed into a temporary duck pond) where they were happily spending their days. It was time to get them into the chicken run because the kids had a class at the Nature Center.

"The sun's coming out!" Nell announced, and indeed it was, and we haven't had a speck of rain since. I ran on the Nature Center trails for a couple of hours during the class. The trails were rivers. The water in some places was up to my knees. Woweeee!

(What we have here is a failure to communicate)

Then on Friday, Nell had a Marine Biology class for three hours in Stonington Boro, so the boys and I dropped her off and continued to Watch Hill in Westerly, RI to check out the waves cooked up by Hurricane Katia way out to sea.

Holy roiling surf, Batman! These waves were six feet high. This may be a normal thing for the North Shore of Hawaii, but to us it was quite a spectacle. I didn't even need to tell the boys not to go in the water. In fact, I had to encourage them to wade in up to their ankles. The waves were awesome. They would build and build until you thought they couldn't get any higher, then they'd add just a little bit more, and then BOOM they'd crash and explode. Shazam!

I had my phone/camera with me, but I couldn't get a good shot of the waves. It was too bright to see anything through the view finder. I shot a few blind snaps, but I didn't catch anything really huge.

We went back the next day with Brian and Nell, but the surf had died down. Perfect for boogie boarding, but not nearly so dramatic.

Here's a piece I wrote for Patch about our week without power.

Toward the end of our fourth post-Irene day without power, my daughter Nell and I were driving home from our “get-dinner” trip to the grocery store when we noticed the traffic light near our neighborhood on Route 1, which had been dark when we left the house, was now lit and functioning.

“Do you think we have power?” Nell asked as we turned onto our block. “Let’s roll down the windows and listen for generators.”

A few houses in I heard one. Then another. “Oh, good,” said Nell. “Phew!”

Nell and I are enjoying the power outage. We are campers in our very souls. We should have been pioneers. Nell worships at the twin altar of Arthur Ransome and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love the idea of living simply. Do we really need sixteen lights, three appliances and two computers running every night?

(Let’s not think about the laundry piling up in every bedroom as we speak. I’m not sure my back is up for the old washboard and ringer.)

Granted, we have it easy. I do not mean to be blithe. Our hot water, solar-powered and plentiful, is pumped into its tank by a borrowed generator shared with our neighbors. Likewise the refrigerator and the iPhone are intermittently juiced. It’s sort of like camping in a really big, incredibly well accommodated yurt.

And it’s fun to see the neighbors. Families are taking evening strolls around the block. All the chatter tends to blind surmises: When the Power Will Come Back On? Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next Wednesday. No one knows for sure. With the exception of Nell and me, the neighborhood is uniformly in favor of restoration to the grid.

But people are working together and sharing, which is always nice. I see folks moving from yard to yard with chainsaws and work gloves. My husband has become the resident troubleshooter for camp stoves and generators. We offer hot showers to anyone who comes to the door.

Early morning is best, well before the generators growl and grumble to life. With no ambient distraction from streetlights, the stars are thick and bright. In the glow of my headlamp up on the deck, I have become adept at lighting our temperamental, white gas stove. My morning tea feels well earned out there in the darkness and the chill.

Late evening is nice as well. Once it gets dark, we all sit around the family room with books and games, blinding each other with our headlamps. I ask the boys if they are enjoying the power outage, and they are non-committal. Much as they love flashlight tag and eating outside, they miss watching roller coaster videos on YouTube. They miss the Myth Busters.

The return of electricity, whenever it happens, will be bittersweet. At this writing we are heading into Day 6, quite possibly the last day of our idyll. Soon the house will be brighter and louder than I can right now imagine.

I’d like to stay a while longer in this nowhere time and place, in this darkness and quiet that could be anywhere, anytime. It’s good to have your life pared down every now and then. It’s good to realize how little you actually need.