The power will probably stay on. Propane is in the tank. Firewood is in the shed. Water flows from the faucet when I turn it on. The toilet works. I don’t even have to watch for snow or ice on my deck or driveway. That’s normal, and rarely mentioned; but normal is highlighted by weeks of storms, outages, and road hazards. Maybe I should celebrate this.
Missed the news? For the last few months the Pacific Northwest (which is a misnomer from the perspective of the Pacific and places farther north and west of here), the area around the Salish Sea, was hit with wind storms and snow storms with barely breaks between them. Each storm knocked out power for hundreds of thousands, though that was shared around. Whether from downed trees or unplowable roads, thousands were trapped for days.
This region usually doesn’t get noticed by the Weather Channel. Our storms aren’t named. ‘Wind’ and ‘snow’ don’t gain the same recognition as Hurricane Whoever. The Pacific Ocean doesn’t care. It uses thousands of miles of open seas to build assaults that would regularly be headline news on the east coast. And that’s OK. We’re not trying to scare anyone away. Well, maybe.
I’ve been eating my way through my freezer and pantry. A couple of those outages helped partly melt some of the frozen goodies. Maybe marginally knocked the frost off them is more accurate. I didn’t open the freezer or the fridge when the power was out, and had at least one food cache outside in the cold, instead. Still, Use By dates are good suggestions, and a regularly clearing of the contents is a good idea. It’s also an excuse to experiment in the kitchen, but that can be a different post.
Emergency preparedness isn’t just a prepper’s hobby, not on an island in a tsunami zone, over a series of earthquake faults, with a line of volcanoes on the horizon. Food caches, backup heat and power sources, generally the stuff that mimics camping, but at home, are handy. As long as I was able to sit at home, the hazards were fewer than the discomforts.
The first day after the wind dies, the power returns, the snows melt off the roads it is easy to sigh in relief. Relief doesn’t come to everyone simultaneously. I can think of a few folks who probably still have trenches or obstacle courses for driveways. Relief is both emotional and practical as those out of danger (or just discomfort) relax and turn to helping those in need. I like people who treat people as people without judging whether they should or shouldn’t have been in their situation.
I sit here, in my most comfortable chair, typing this post while safe – and have to remind myself of what things were like just a few days ago.
I also sit here realizing that the room is a little chilly. In island fashion I didn’t flush as I let the yellow mellow (which it really doesn’t do, but a flush is inevitable). A few lights are on, which is easier thanks to LEDs. Dinner is simmering in the background, a mix of meat bought on sale with some veggies that probably never truly thawed. Except for little noises from the kitchen and a room heater, the house is mostly quiet.
Frugality and environmental sensitivity mean I’m wearing a vest rather than cranking up the heat. Some houses turn on every light inside and outside, and look like concentration camps if they’re also ringed by fencing. Later I’ll watch a show, letting the internet leak in on command. That will be the noisiest part of the day. Eventually, the evening will end and I’ll retreat to my futon couch, snuggling under a nice thick comforter.
To balance all the complaining and worrying during the recent interruptions would require more of a celebration. I’m warm, enough. I’ll be fed, well enough. I have bathroom facilities that would considered luxurious in most of the world. My house isn’t perfect, but I can be perfectly comfortable here.
I can be perfectly comfortable. That doesn’t mean I am. I’m too aware of the daily struggles to exist in this society. It’s too easy to focus on the lack rather than what’s available. I’m at least imperfectly comfortable enough.
I write this to applaud those who help provide all of the services I enjoy, both explicitly and implicitly. I also write this to applaud those who, in the midst of a series of disasters, saw downed trees as firewood and maybe an opportunity for art, piles of snow as refilling the aquifers and as an opportunity to make snow sculptures, and helped those around them as they could.
It is human nature to complain, or at least seems that way. Beowulf and the Iliad weren’t butterfly and rainbow stories. I wonder if our society will evolve to focus more on the positive than the negative, or at least to balance a complaint with a solution, turning problems into opportunities.
Being frugal provides those small reminders of what can be taken for granted. A vest, a culinary adventure, time spent writing rather than watching a story, maybe those are just another version of small celebrations.