One thing I like about living in western Washington state is our relatively mild climate. It doesn’t get super hot in summer or extremely cold in winter; no droughts; no blizzards. Of course, we do have our moments of weather drama, as we did this past week.
It started with a little snow, and then a lot more snow. No big deal. But next came freezing rain, coating everything (roads, cars, sidewalks, trees and shrubs) with half an inch of ice. Under all that extra weight, huge limbs and whole trees came crashing down, blocking roads and severing power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands in the dark. Then, when temperatures warmed about 20 degrees, flooding was feared as all that snow and ice rapidly melted. Finally, high winds came through, toppling a few more trees and undoing some of the work of the crews restoring power. (I wrote this prophetic statement yesterday, and our power went out again last night.)
The weather was most favourable for her. The ground covered with snow, and the atmosphere in that unsettled state between frost and thaw, which is of all others the most unfriendly for exercise, every morning beginning in rain or snow, and every evening setting in to freeze, she was for many days a most honourable prisoner. (Emma, chapter 16)
Mortified by her matchmaking debacle with Harriet and Mr. Elton, Emma was delighted to have an honorable excuse for hiding herself away from the world for a few days. I didn’t have her issues, but when I found myself snowed/iced in this week (with no power, phone, tv, or internet), suddenly things returned to basics and a lot of my usual busy-ness went away.
No meetings to go to. No phone calls to make. No online business to do. My new job description.? Keep a fire going in the fireplace. Run the generator enough to maintain the bare essentials. Fix simple camp-style meals. And write! Without the usual distractions (and with enough electricity to keep my laptop charged up), I got a lot more writing done than I would have otherwise. So, there was a silver lining to being cut off from the 21st century world for a few days. The downside? Besides the obvious (inconvenience, expense, disrupted plans), we lost a lot of trees. Here, a pine – one I planted myself as a sapling – went down. And below, my neighbor’s Japanese maples, ruined. This is only the tip of the iceberg; the devastation is everywhere, and the clean up will take weeks.
We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the fore part of this day, which has done a great deal of mischief among our trees… What I regret more than all the rest is that all the three elms which grew in Hall’s meadow, and gave such ornament to it, are gone… I am happy to add, however, that no greater evil than the loss of trees has been the consequence of the storm… We grieve, therefore, in some comfort. (A Letter to her sister Cassandra, November 1800)
Still and all, I’m thankful – for a husband who knows how to operate a chainsaw, for a generator and a fireplace to keep us warm and functional, for no damage done to our house or family, and for the reminder to not take those every-day, modern conveniences (instant communication, lights at the flick of a switch, etc.) so much for granted.