On Wednesday morning, I awoke to a heavy snowfall. Undeterred, I got ready for work and headed out the door. However, much to my surprise, I was not able to get out of the driveway. I called my place of work and explained my situation, deciding that I might as well have a snow day, as it was clear that the snowplow hadn’t made it down the road yet and I would have a hard time getting down the road.
Accustomed as I am to rural living, I have never lived in Black Creek before and am new to Macauley Road, where I am housesitting. It has its own weather system I found out. We were getting flakes of heavy snow, and in Campbell River, there was none!
Making the most of my day at home, I started working on a current writing project and was enjoying the music of Yo Yo Ma. The snow continued to fall throughout the morning, quite heavily at times. I looked out the window and thought what a pretty sight the snow was. I figured it really wasn’t so bad being stuck, especially as long as the power stayed on. Then whomp! The lights went out. Silence. My laptop had about an hours worth of power left on it, but the sudden lack of electricity had me concerned. There were several things I needed to do, but for some reason, the first thing I did was to take a bath while it was still light enough out to see. I watched as the water pressure slowly dwindled out of the bathtub tap, but provided me with just enough water in which to wash my hair. I had a fairly quick bath, then thought about what my next steps should be. Clearly I had no power, and now, no water.
Number one, I thought, was to get more wood. There are two woodstoves in the house, but I had been only using the one at the front of the house, as baseboard heat keeps the back rooms warm. Without waiting for my hair to dry, I went out to the woodshed and began hauling armloads of wood up to the house. Normally I would have used the wheelbarrow to assist me, but found I couldn’t push it through the snow. One problem was the snow itself, the other was the flat tire. There were two wheelbarrows, but they both had flats!
Once I got the second fire going, I got out all the candles I could find. I had brought a few with me, and rounded up some I had seen around the house. Okay, so now at least I would have warmth and light.
All I had for water though, was a little bit left in the kettle from making the morning’s tea, but that wouldn’t be enough. I hadn’t used the barbeque on the side deck yet, and realized I would have to make my supper on it. I could also use it to melt snow for water. So getting a large pot and a scoop, I filled the pot with snow. I lit the BBQ and presto! Had a cooking facility. Great. In one way I was prepared: I had stocked up on food, so I wouldn’t go hungry if I got marooned for awhile.
I remembered seeing a couple of flashlights in strategic places by doorways, and made sure I knew where they were. I also went out to my car, where I had left my faithful old Sony ghetto blaster and brought it in the house. Success! It had live batteries in it and I could listen to the radio. Perhaps there would be news about how long to expect this power outage for, and how wide reaching it was.
This time of year, it gets dark early. I made a couple of necessary phone calls, but made them brief as the house phone was out, and I would not be able to recharge my cell phone.
Then it was time to make dinner. That part wasn’t difficult, I can make just about anything on a BBQ. So dinner was a small lamb roast with potatoes and zucchini. It was awkward though, cooking by flashlight. Then I remembered that I’d seen a headlamp by the front door. I went to get it, and voila! It turned on, and I put it on my head. Now I could use both hands, and still have light!
Luckily I had a good book to read and a bottle of cognac. Mind you, I didn’t need the whole bottle of cognac, but it was a comfort to know it was there.
Both fires were going well, and I interrupted my reading from time to time to feed them.
I was warm and fed, and by ten pm had read enough and went to bed, confident that the rising temperatures would mean that I could get out of the driveway the following morning.
In that respect, it turned out I was over confident. I called my daughter to tell her, and asked her to relay the message to my workplace as the battery was almost dead on my cellphone. I wanted her to know I was still without power or water, but otherwise okay. I resigned myself to staying at home for awhile longer until the power came on and miracle of miracles, soon it did. I went out to my car and tried to get up the driveway again, but no go. As soon as I moved off the gravel and onto the snow, I was literally spinning my wheels. What to do!
I thought of my friend and former partner Terry, who has a four wheel drive truck and is always good at dealing with dilemmas. He came over and I offered him a cup of tea. He said it was very good. “Snow melt tea,” I told him. “Can’t get much fresher.” He then tried to get my car out. No dice. After several tries, and with me sprinkling house salt on the driveway, we came to the conclusion that we were going to have to dig through the snow the entire length of the drive in order to get me out to the road.
We took turns, although he did the bulk of it, after two hours, we finally got my car out to the road. Terry chopped some more wood for me and brought more up to the house before he left. Then, just after he left, and I was thinking about what to do next, I saw a small grater attacking the large pile of snow that had been left behind by the snow plow. Two hours too late, I thought. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. A young fellow was there. He was the grater driver. He asked if I would move my car as he was creating a parking space for me at the side of the road. It turned out that Terry had spoken to him before he left. He saw him working on the neighbour’s place and asked him to make a clearing and parking space for me. I was happy to oblige, and went out to move the car. It occurred to me that this young man deserved something, so I returned from the house with twenty dollars, No the fellow told me , that guy (meaning Terry) already gave him twenty. Wow! How nice of Terry to do that, and how nice of the young fellow to tell me!
By now, it was getting too late to go to work and I was exhausted. I laid down on the couch and fell asleep. By the time I woke up, it was almost dark, and I had planned to attend a candlelight ceremony that night to celebrate the winter solstice. Since I also had to prepare for my mother’s eightieth birthday and had more to do, I decided to head into town. The road was reasonably good, and as I headed towards Campbell River the rain came down in buckets. What a crazy climate we have I thought! But still, I felt the need to go to the service and give thanks. All was well in the end, and I am happy to be alive and living in this world. (Although, I am feeling a little stiff!!)