Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Da Big Storm
Photo by Winston Boyer
“A storm of historic proportions” crows my husband from our office, where he is reading the online weather reports. The last “big one” was 10 years ago, in 1998, closing Highway One for 3 months.
That afternoon it begins. Walking to my office I see the first sprinkles appear amid the leaves at my feet. It's colder, and we're all a little more keyed up than usual, discussing the forecast.
Driving south on Hwy One I turn up the volume on my Circus Contraption CD and loudly sing along to charming ditties about burning witches and slaughtering cows as the storm swirls around me, gusts of wind blowing the rain sideways against my car.
All night we are pelted with big raindrops and howling winds, snug in our bed, the wood-burning stove keeping the bedroom warm. Once at a winter wedding we imbibed some special punch and came home to de-construct the colors (and feelings) of the raindrops. If they slid along the window, they felt sad, like melting yellow lemon drops. If they plopped on the roof they were cheerfully orange, if they hit the wall sideways with a strong wind behind them they were icy blue and reckless.
Being a sensualist, synesthesia is a condition I'd love to have. Why settle for one physical sense at a time? Or, merge an emotion with a sensation, for an even more powerful experience. The sense of touch seems to be this way. We shake hands to show friendship, and kiss to make up. When we hug each other, we engage our hearts.
Reading in bed by candlelight is something I recommend that everyone do often. Restlessness ceases as you quietly absorb words in the still, gentle light. No where to go to, nothing you're missing. Accept the limits of the sun's daily transit, and just read, as your ancestors did. Here's a recipe for a night of peaceful, unbroken sleep: raindrops, reading, candlelight, and holding your lover.
Next morning we intrepid worker bees decide to make a run for it, down the hill to our place of employment. Traveling together in our pick-up truck, we stop to chainsaw one tree on the road with a neighbor’s help. I say "we" but I must confess I sat in the cab quite cozily, watching my husband and neighbor buck up the fallen bay tree.
Emergency tree trimming
As we pass our leaf-splattered neighbor, I take some teasing. “Were you comfortable and dry in the truck, my lady, drinking your coffee and watching us work?” His red jacket is covered with pulp from the tree they've just demolished. A twig sticks jauntily out of his white goatee. “O yes, that was lovely! Thank you,” I smile sheepishly.
Farther down, we dismount from our truck and help a sports car driving neighbor push an assortment of rocks off the narrow paved road. Beautiful clothes soaked through, kicking stones in her high-heeled boots, smiling broadly. “Remember, they can still be falling,” cautions Toby, “so don’t park under the falling rocks!” We move on as quickly as possible.
Yes, this can happen...
At work, one generator sputters to an unexpected death, the highway shuts down in the Carmel Highlands, the winds pick up, and after making our case to close down for the day we depart, buy some gas in the valley, grab a quick lunch and head back to the ridge.
We arrive to find a neighbor with earth-moving equipment tidying up a slide, and take sober note of the large, pointy rocks that have landed from above, now sitting by the side of the road.
The storm continues. 7.5 inches of rain in less than 3 days here on Partington, with 40-70 mph winds. 200,000+ people in Northern California without power. The fish in our pond may soon be swimming in the paddock.
Being Linda and Toby, what do we do on the second night of a big storm and power outage? We host a dinner party! Well, we had plans to do so anyway, a special Twelfth Night celebration. But barbecuing a large beef roast under a gazebo-style umbrella, washing dishes and chopping veggies by candlelight? Why not, if it means we can open a bottle (or two) of champagne and wish each other Happy New Year again?
The following morning it hails, and rumors begin to circulate on the mountain of no power until 3-4 days from now. This is a sure sign, naturally, that we’ll get power sometime very soon. By 1pm we're back on the grid. Sadly, I put away our heavy-duty Bell Systems rotary phone, whose ring tone takes me back to 1975 (with better sound and reception than our portable plastic one.)
I always feel a little nostalgia when power outages end. While it’s no fun when food spoils and you can’t do the laundry, there’s something profoundly soothing about living without the electronic stridulation of appliances. No humming, buzzing or ticking, just bucketfuls of raindrops, the hissing of the fire, wind moaning under the eaves.
Sometimes the storm sounds are gentle, other times wild. You can feel like you’re living underwater, or on a big ship on the ocean. When the storm stops, it’s as if we’ve been tossed ashore after a shipwreck. I open the door to my bedroom on a new, wet, world, glittering in the morning light.