Category Archives: weather

In the dark

Day four of power outage with excerpts from “Waiting for Snow”

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – I have just finished cooking Sunday dinner, as Ludek ran back in the house shouting, “Everything is back on.” I could finally hear the air coming from the heating vents, as the house came alive with sounds.

During the four-day long power outage, I had to learn how to ration the energy from the generator; it was either the water pump or another appliance on top of keeping up the house temperature to prevent the pipes from freezing. I had to fill jars with water.

Even brewing a cup of tea became an unsurmountable task, because the kettle was taking too much power.

I could either use the stovetop or the oven, but not both. Then came the issue with “potty breaks” and not enough water beyond two flushes.

After a while, the oven knocked out the generator due to overload. It managed to maintain the heat in the house while we were using the woodstove as a back-up when the generator went out.

We had the last power outage of this magnitude during the spring ice storm of 2003. The generator got its test run.

This morning we ate hot breakfast at Saint Pat’s parish hall. On our way back, we finally spotted the Consumer’s trucks working on power lines near the Franciscans.

“They’re getting closer,” I said.

“Close is not good enough,” Ludek said.

Last night we returned from the new production of Phantom of the Opera at the Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo to our house and neighborhood pitched in black. I thought I was back at the opera with the phantom lurking in the surrounding woods and singing “Angel of Music:”

“Angel of music, guide and guardian………”

The worn-out generator stopped running and Ludek had to fix it again-something about spark plugs. The house was still warm, so the generator must have been running for most of the afternoon.

As of yesterday, the Celebrations Cinemas started offering free movies for people to warm up.

I watched the disturbing news: An 82-year-old lady made it through the outage by warming up in her car, running back home for a bathroom break. In the evening, she visited with her sister.

“She’s a nun, so I joined the convent,” the lady joked.

On Sunday morning, we passed the Consumer’s restoration time of 3:30 a.m. No power.

But the Facebook posts from people getting back power were very encouraging and enlightening. The smallest tasks turned into accomplishments during the power outage.

Eight states were helping Consumer’s restore power in ice-stricken Michigan around the clock. There were more than 200,000 people without power.

“Thank you, guys.”

Friday, Feb. 8

The temperature in the house is dropping quickly; it’s down to 62 F now. It is 16 degrees outside with winds gusting at 45 mph. The weather advisory warns of large chunks of ice falling from trees and power lines; rain showers will change to snow showers and wet roads will quickly freeze.

We’ve been without power since 10:30 am yesterday, Feb. 7, 2019. During the last two weeks, we got the wrath of the polar vortex, refreeze and now flash freeze. The generator wasn’t working until now, as Ludek had to come home from work early to fix it. He brought me a large cup of hot coffee.

When the power goes out in the country, that means the water pump stops working and we’re without water as well. From the window of my writing studio, I see the snow swirling in the wind. Our spruce tree with drooping branches turned into a green tent.

At the onset of the refreeze on Wednesday, Feb. 6. I experienced strange energy. Eight minutes before the end of my yoga session with Elin, the TV screen went dark. A strange force propelled me to put on my boots, sweatshirt and jacket. I went into the gardens surrounding our country home to take photos. I shouldn’t have. The branches were cracking under the weight of ice. I started feeling dizzy and almost passed out in my little veggie and herb garden. I looked at the frozen Weigela shrub and thought of the novel “Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough. The main character priest Ralph de Bricassart dies in the beautiful gardens in Australia.

“Lord, please do not let me die yet until my work is finished,” I said.

Winter strengthens the silence in the country when the wind is not blowing and the branches or power lines are not falling to the ground.

The woodstove now glows with fire and warmth. I am brewing some hot tea by Health King and listening to the struggling generator outside. I realize that we remain totally at the mercy of nature. It is a humbling thought.

As the Chinese say: Water is the most powerful element because of its non-resistance. It wears a hole in a rock drop by drop, and tears away everything in front of it.

“Fallasburg looks like a war zone,” a friend posted on Facebook from the nearby Kent County park.

Others posted that the weather outside and the power outage are romantic, conducive to a simple life before technology. I can see the romance in the ice encased landscape, in the burning wood that was chopped from the trees above the hill over the railroad tracks and in the cup of tea.

As neighbors, we’re used to helping each other in times of need such as this. The garbage hasn’t been hauled away for two weeks in a row. Last week, we were without postal service. The Internet is not working. The school has been out for 10 days. The politicians say that the kids won’t have to make up for lost time. The Consumers gave us no restoration time for power.

Time in all its dimensions is often the subject of my stories. Most recently, I wrote a short story “Waiting for Snow.” Last year, an exhibit at the Franciscan Sisters showcased “Waiting for Spring.” Now, I could write “Waiting for Power.”

My brother Vas, who lives in Paris, MI, complains that he’s constantly waiting for something.

“Wait till Hell freezes over.”

And there is actually a community in Michigan that is called Hell. I’ve never been there. When the snow and ice are gone, I might swing over there to check it out.

Everything is relative to time and in time.

Excerpt from “Waiting for Snow”

It was January in the new year of the Earth Pig, and there was still no snow on the ground. Green stalks of grass and weeds were peeking out of the ground and laughing in the wind at the parked snowmobiles with no riders. Other equipment too was idling.

The eager machines just sat still waiting in the front and backyards. Mother Earth was refusing to cooperate on one side, on the other she released her wrath on the coastal states.

The Midwest was sleeping its winter dream dipped into deep dry freeze and after the holiday blues. A man in the tiny community of Paris put some water in his coffee maker. The year-round Christmas tree was still lit and cast colorful lights on the modest kitchen with a broken cabinet underneath the kitchen sink. He stored a bucket with a rag there for his chores; now this was a habit from the old country in Europe.

The first morning cigarette of the day was the best one. He deeply inhaled and let out the smoke in gray circles. One wall of the mobile home was an entire mirror divided into three separate sections. He often walked to the mirror wall to look at himself. But just before looking in the mirror, Colin had to look outside. He pulled aside the checkered racing flag that was covering the window overlooking the front yard with a view on Paris Road.

Colin had to move through a set of obstacles to get to the window. These were large train layouts taking up the entire living room. Colin’s mom called it a fire safety hazard, so would the firemen.

The green and yellow grass lacked the coveted white cover. Colin carefully stepped outside on the wooden steps to make sure there was no snow. He went to the green snowmobile with the new permit and a full tank of gas.

Paris sat on an extensive trail system close to a county park. The community had a motel, a pizza parlor and a general store “Papa’s;” all located on the trail.

Colin, always wearing a train conductor’s black hat, called himself “The Trainman.”

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