Being Powerless isn’t Being Powerless
Like so many other Mainers, we were without power from Monday morning through Friday night, and again Saturday morning.
What an experience.
We were already planning on buying a generator and transfer switch rig. I work from home as a programmer and writer for my civilian job, and so keeping the computers running (my primary workhorse is a Mac desktop, not the laptop I’m writing this on right now) is of vital importance.
Like so many other Mainers, we’re also on a well, so our water was gone for the week.
My wife stocks us with dry and canned foods and water, so we were fine in the food and water department. But the absence of bathing/flushing water was our persistent problem throughout the week.
We went through our stock of Shabbat candles, which worked very well for night lighting, including on Shabbat.
I was able to work at the Hampden Public Library, where Amelia volunteers and Leah and Nezzie haunt for their children’s programming. I wasn’t lonely in this. A number of other telecommuters huddled over laptops in the library. We were all in it together. Sometimes, I chafed when another worker was a little loud on the phone, but she was a really nice lady and we’re all just trying to get by and keep up our small contributions to the economy.
I tried helping our neighbors cut the trees off of their lines, but my own work demands got in the way. I was able to cut the one tree off of our mutual lines near the front of my quarter-mile long driveway.
Our wood stove heated our entire A-frame throughout the week. My 20-year old MSR WhisperLite Internationale, which I bought at the Anchorage, Alaska REI in 1997, cooked our dinner on our deck each night and, when my Guard drill weekend came around, heated water for my morning ablutions. Amelia and I lugged buckets of water up from Cove Brook to fill our toilet tanks with.
Amelia’s friend took her away for two nights so she wasn’t stinky for school.
When our power came back on, and ultimately stayed on, Saturday, I was almost a little sad. Living in rural(ish) Maine, the limits of our self-reliance have been tested beyond what we know in Pennsylvania. I cut and chop my own wood. I clear deadfalls. I move snow. I clear brush. And yet, we come together with our friends and neighbors. Our rabbi’s wife, who by the way, has an identity beyond rebbetzin, made us dinner for Friday night. Our neighbors checked in on us and us on them.
In spite of the blackout, I felt connected to Maine beyond anything I’ve felt thus far through all of this. The nights it didn’t rain, the moon was so bright that it illuminated everything. Moonlight through the windows in our great room, the orange glow of our wood stove, the flickering candlelight – the world reminded us how wild and beautiful it is, and how vulnerable we are if we passively trudge through life without pausing to remember how easy and convenient modern life is.
Some days were a comedy of errors:
- I had the bright idea that I would use a Rubbermaid tub to catch rainwater when the power first went out on Monday, thinking it would be a little more convenient than schlepping buckets up and down the hill from Cove Brook.
When I went to use the water on Thursday, I found 5 squirrels and 1 chipmunk drowned in my good idea fairy murder tub. I gave them a dignified burial, but I still feel horrible.
- When trying to cut the thickest tree down off of my neighbor’s power lines, I got up on a small aluminum ladder, still reaching over my head with the chainsaw, and the 23-inch trunk came crashing down a mere inches in front of my face.
They say to treat the power lines like they’re live. We should also probably treat big trees like they can land on you and maim you.
- When trying to cut the puny tree down off our lines near the entrance to our driveway, I cut a little too high, and the tree was hanging by one branch, no thicker than my little finger. But that branch was strong. I brought my car out, so I could stand on the roof and try and unhook said branch, but the tree actually began sliding down the lines towards my car! I hastily jumped down and backed the car down the driveway, with swinging, stubborn tree in hot pursuit.
When I finally got it off the lines, the tree had slid almost 75 feet.
- Not knowing how long things were going to be out, we waited until after the power came on to clean out our fridge and deep freeze.
From my time in the military and when I once drove the meat-wagon for a coroner’s office, as well as my many years on this or that chevra kadisha, I’m used to rubbing Vicks under my nose. That almost wasn’t enough. I haven’t smelled anything that bad since we were in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with the Guard.
As I write this, thousands of Mainers are still without power. I hope things get fixed for them all soon, but in the meantime, I know that they are resilient and can count on the good nature of their friends and neighbors, just as we did.