Cares Drop Away

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The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.
—John Muir

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The Pacific Northwest has been anticipating a “historic” windstorm for the past four days, comparable to the west coast “Columbus Day” storm of 1962.  I remember that storm vividly as an eight year old in Olympia, as the wind gusts were clocked at over 140 mph.  Large fir trees toppled over like toothpicks in the woods all around our house.  The root balls stood 15 feet tall, headstones over a mass of tree graves.  We lived without power for at least a week, losing all our stored food in our freezer and depending on canned goods, a camp stove and kerosene lights and hot dogs roasted over our fireplace.

When the predictions came for a similar strength storm last week, like millions of others in the region, I dutifully prepared by storing up water, getting a battery operated radio ready and counting up my canned goods.  We waited, en masse, for the monster to storm into our yards.

The lights flickered a few times, but the winds were meager in comparison to our usual storms.

Some people were disappointed, having geared up for “the big one.”

I’m among the relieved this morning,  having aged past the desire for an adventure without power, and today my cares have dropped away like the leaves that let go to settle silent for the winter.

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Frightening Silence

photo by Josh Scholten

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.”
― Blaise Pascal

On the opposite coast of our nation from where we live, a storm is spiraling forward in a relentless course to bring well over a foot of rain and upwards of 90 mile an hour winds to the front doors of millions of our people.  There will be nothing silent about it.  It will roar through, like a hungry lion seeking whom it may devour.

Our nephew, who works on power lines in California, is part of a caravan of trucks and power crews from all over the nation heading east to try to help restore power and order over the next few weeks of recovery.

What is more frightening than the surge of the storm itself would be the potential of utter silence in its aftermath.  The silence following a storm would be hopelessness beyond our ability to grasp and hold.  If there is one cry, one call for help,  any sound at all, then there is still hope of rescue.

As the billows of clouds and waves roll in to shore with tumultuous howl and din, may they retreat quickly without leaving a trace behind.  And may all the people sing loud over the rumble of the storm, lifting their voices together to keep silence forever at bay.

photo by Josh Scholten

Circle of Light

candlelight1(written after a February storm in 2006)

I awoke to eery inky darkness this morning around 5 AM. No digital clock numbers shining red, no nightlight illumination. Just black. The wind and rain storm during the night had left us without power, and a quick scan out the windows informed me we were not alone. The closest lights in the horizon were toward Lynden 6 miles away, and the Canadian border cities ten miles away all gleamed bright.

The flashlights, of course, were not where they were supposed to be, and the candles were stuck deep in cupboards after Christmas, so I stumbled around in the dark, feeling my way through now unfamiliar hallways and rooms, gathering up what was needed to provide a little light and safety. When an Amish acquaintance from Ohio called me a couple hours later and I lamented about how completely unAmish I was in my dependency on the power grid, he chuckled and asked me if I had my oil lamps lit yet.

We are nearing 24 hours since the power went out, the storm long past, but sit with 200,000 other homes waiting to be “turned on” again. It could be awhile. It is just for these kinds of situations on the farm that we have a small generator that we use sporadically to pump the water to the barn and keep the freezer and refrigerator cold. I’m stealing a little generator power to write this quickly.

Our children have always celebrated our power outages. It is high adventure, an escape from the routine, and even in their teenage years, they cling closer. It managed to be an atypical  “family” Saturday, whereas we usually are bustling about separately playing catch-up from the week, and preparing for the activities of the week to come. Instead, today we cleaned barn with the help of flashlights, cleaned house together and folded clothes in the dark, guessing the color of the dark socks, played piano and sang together and read lines in my son’s high school musical, helping him to memorize his part. We played games and laughed more than usual. We were drawn together by necessity as well as by choice. There was one good light in the kitchen, so there we sat encircled together, connected by a candle, when so often we are flung apart by the busyness and bright light of the world.

I am wistful about the thought of the power returning sometime tonight or tomorrow. My children said it was one of the best Saturdays they remember in a long time. I have to agree.  Maybe we need to take a hint and shut off the electronics– the TV, this computer, and just sit down together more often, sharing ourselves inside a circle of light.  It is far more memorable, and in a chilly house battered by a windstorm, far more warming to the heart.