08 November 2011
For quite a few days we were without power here in our little New England town. A heavy, wet snow came quickly to the ground, weighing down the fall leaves, breaking countless branches and downing power lines. It was as I have never seen it before. Really. Our cobalt blue stove kept us warm and I was, as I often am, grateful to live in a tiny, south facing house, whose large windows provided us with an abundance of light and warmth during the day. We gathered snow to melt for washing dishes and to give to the sheep and chickens. The new icy snow became our fridge.
Our brick sided elementary school became a shelter for those who needed help keeping warm, some company or a good meal. Its ever changing message board out on its front line read, "Good neighbors lend Things, Great neighbors lend Themselves". And indeed they did. Friends, whose power was restored before ours, were quick to invite us over for a feast of chicken and barley, chocolate cupcakes, wine and music. They made an extra batch of it all for us to take home in their cherry red dutch oven for dinner the following evening. Our 98 year old friend who still lives alone down a long dirt road was taken in by her neighbors. There they lingered around the breakfast table in robes and slippers, spent evenings by the wood fire with nothing to do but enjoy each others company.
That is what I was reminded about most of all during those days. The true, generous spirit of people. We can, us New Englanders, be a quiet, private bunch at times. But with only the slightest of prodding we will be there to help, to offer companionship, to take care of our community. We will break through our shells in the most honest and good natured way. A sign at our co-op read, "Free Coffee and Shelter at the Town Hall until Everyone has their power back on!"
Our life which is very quiet and simple became even more so. There was no hum of the refrigerator, no tick of the clock. It felt like washing dishes became a whole morning activity. Our evenings were spent by candle light, drawing and reading and crawling into bed even earlier then we go to bed now. When we went to a local store to get a few more head lamps, they too were out of power. And so a receipt was written by hand. Hand to pen, pen to paper. How intimate! I was thrilled to be able to feel a bit like Anne of Green Gables, because who doesn't want that!
So, when the power clicked back on one night there was lots of dancing and singing but also, I admit, just a little disappointment.
I am however feeling forever grateful for the true gift of clean running water and electricity. How lucky we are to have it. What a privilege. And I know, in truth, that I could only enjoy it because I knew it was only a matter of time until our lights clicked back on again.