I felt qualified to handle anything nature could send my way, having been born and raised in Maine. Afterall, we had lived in rural Maine, where power outages were common occurrences and where we were used to being last on someone’s plowing list.
And if that was not enough to give me survival credentials, I had lived and worked through the Ice Storm of 1998 that froze Maine and left thousands without power for more than two weeks in some cases.
My husband Jim had fallen the first day of the ice storm and sprained his wrist so he was home on medical time off. That let him keep the home fires burning — literally — in the woodstove, and stock up on water whenever the power came on briefly before being knocked out again.
Since then, we have replaced the woodstove with a pellet stove, and Jim has died of pancreatic cancer, so when the big wind storm came through at the end of October, causing more widespread power outages than the ice storm did, I felt much more vulnerable.
What I learned though, is that I have the tools to survive.
A huge gust of wind took down the large fir tree on my front lawn, sending it across one part of my U-shaped driveway and ripping the electric meter and phone and electric wires off my house. It also took down several limbs from two of my antique apple trees on my front lawn, including a special limb from Rosie’s apple tree.
Rosie was my Brittany I had before I got Sassy. Rosie was obsessed with squirrels and would actually climb the apple tree and walk out on a certain fat limb in her pursuit of the critters. The recent wind took that limb down, landing it next to her grave. (Visible in back left in photo).
I have not been concerned about any of the power outages we’ve had in the 35 years I’ve lived in my old farmhouse because I am on a main power line. It has to be functioning properly before some of the secondary roads can be repaired.
But this time was different. It wasn’t the main line that was damaged; it was the connection to my private residence. That put me in a less advantageous position on the priority list for repairs.
With more than 1 million people without power statewide, the electric companies had to repair the lines that would help the most people the fastest. That meant single houses without power had to come last on the list.
I lost my power on a Monday morning, and for five nights, the dogs and I lived with borrowed battery-operated lamps, lots of flickering candles, using the grill on the deck to cook and heat water, hauling water from my neighbor’s, and no heat. Fortunately, it wasn’t that cold during the day, and at night, the four dogs and I snuggled under plenty of blankets.
I also was lucky enough to have a family member who did not lose power and I would go there every other day for a hot shower and a meal. I took the dogs with me whenever I could to get them out of the house and into a more familiar situation.
The weird thing was being the only building in the neighborhood without power. Even the streetlights in front of the house were functioning as if everything were normal in our world.
For most of the neighborhood, it certainly was normal. But not at my house.
The dogs were jittery. They had been home alone when the tree cracked and twisted at its trunk and came down with a crash, ripping everything off the house. They were freaked out when I got home that night. My youngest — Quincy — came out of his crate, ran outside, laid in the grass and vomited. Thistle refused to eat for a couple days. Sassy and Bullet clearly were upset, offering out of the ordinary behaviors and clinging to my side.
I tried to keep things as normal for them as I could, with their food on its regular schedule, some playtime outside, and interaction with me as I dealt with the increased number of chores. But the part of the day we all liked best was bedtime. Once the battery-powered light was out, everything was back to normal.
Except it wasn’t. Because there were no numbers visible on the digital clock. No hint of warmth in the house. No phones ringing. No hum of the refrigerator. No ability to do laundry. No TV or radio. No furnace coming on.
The house felt dead, and we were its captives. It was one of the most isolating experiences of my life, as if entering the house meant passage into a different world — like the children who walked through the wardrobe and entered Narnia in the C.S. Lewis story. Only my world wasn’t pretty. Just cold.
And I didn’t make new friends, but I was reminded of the generosity and loving support I have in my life every day from my family and friends as I navigate life’s obstacles.
I worked all week and came home each night, dreading it with an increasing ardor. By Saturday morning, I had decided three things: I probably should purchase a small portable heater I could use indoors or get a battery backup system for the pellet stove; I needed to do dishes and clean up around the house the best I could because who knew when power would be restored; and I had had enough of roughing it in a setup not made for roughing it.
I had just heated water on the grill and was doing dishes when i thought I heard a chainsaw. The dogs and I looked at each other, and when we heard the sound again, they went nuts barking and I ran outside to find a swarm of power company trucks in the area of my power lines, and one person cutting away some of the tree to get to the lines.
I was so happy to see them, I hugged one of the workers — with his permission of course.
We had power again within the hour.
After I was out of my crisis situation and could look at things objectively, I realized some important things about myself:
- The most significant is that I am a strong person. Jim’s death weakened me for a while, but now I am strong again.
- I am resourceful. I was able to identify each basic need and find a solution for meeting that need. And come to think of it, it’s how I am living my daily life again.
- I can endure. I survived Jim’s death and have learned to live beside it, and I am able to apply its lessons to other areas of my life.
- I have confidence in who I am. I am a different person. Older. More seasoned. Less easily rattled.
- My faith remains the centerpiece of my life, and my trust in God’s promises is rock solid.
- I cannot handle the truly huge problems in my life without the love and support of friends and family, whether that support is emotional or helping me accomplish a task.
- I look forward to my future. I have no idea what that will be, but I relish life’s possibilities.
So, in the meantime, the fallen tree has been cut up with help from my stepdaughter and son-in-law and my parents, and hauled away by the town’s public works department, leaving me with a twisted, half-uprooted stump on my front lawn, looking almost like modern art.
It may be modern art by someone’s standards, but to me, it is a symbol of my ability to survive.