I had a topic in mind for today\’s post, but I can\’t remember what it was, because the snow messed with my day.
It began yesterday and fell all day today–a beautiful, heavy snow that quickly accumulated to over a foot. It did all the things that snow is supposed to do–covered up the bare fields and the dirty remnants of the last storm, brought flocks of birds to the feeder, made the world look like a Christmas card (which could be a good thing, or not).
This was all fine until, feeling chilly after a nap, I went to make a cup of coffee and found that the power was out. And when the power goes out in these parts it means no light by which to read, no stove on which to cook, no heat, no water (for you naive city dwellers: wells are powered by an electric pump), no internet.
While my husband tried to contact the power company, I made a fire in the wood stove. I also brought up from the basement two of the many gallon jugs filled with water that I keep for such occasions. We would need them for flushing toilets, for washing hands and brushing teeth. Fortunately, the temperature outside was somewhere in the 30s, so the wood stove kept us comfortable, and the sun took a long time going down, so I could read. But I really wanted to be in the basement carving, and I couldn\’t do that without lights.
When dinnertime came, we started calling restaurants, but the ones we frequent were closed due to the weather. We ended up in a dive in the nearby village of G, in New York state. What is it that makes some dives cozy, and others repulsive? This one was of the latter kind.
There was a salad bar with brownish iceberg lettuce. The bread was that super-soft kind that, if you squeeze it ever so lightly it collapses into a kind of paste. The lasagna that I ordered huddled under a blanket of cheese so thick that I had to roll the fork over and over before putting it into my mouth to get the strands of melted cheese to break. There were many large chunks of grayish sausage which apparently had been added to the dish without draining, since the whole concoction was awash in 3/4\” of liquid grease. And what about the tomato sauce, you ask? After some searching I did find a tiny pink vegetable-looking thing swimming around all by itself….
I am a fairly omnivorous person, but this lasagna defeated me. The cluttered look of the restaurant didn\’t help, of course. Neither did the deadly lighting (but at least they had lights, which is why we were there), nor the greasy-looking panelling on the walls. But the most discouraging sight was the people, both staff and clients, almost all of whom looked like they subsisted on a diet of the lasagna that sat congealing on my plate. Young and old, they ranged from severely plump to out-and-out obese. Most pathetic to me were the women in their twenties, with rolls of fat overhanging their low-rise jeans, their thighs rubbing against each other, their fingers like sausages….
But enough about sausages for tonight. Let\’s just say that I asked for a styrofoam box (a bad environmental choice, I know) and brought the remains of the lasagna home. Tomorrow I will serve it, with apologies, to the hens.
We came home in the dark, stumbled over the dogs, looked for matches, lit some candles. I tried to read , but even Penelope Lively\’s writing couldn\’t distract me from the discomfort in my eyes. Plus, every time I looked up from the book, the rest of the room was in total darkness. Where was Bisou? What would we do when we ran out of candles?
How did people ever live like this? How did they cook, clean, have babies, care for the sick (can you imagine having the flu in such darkness?)? How did women even go up the stairs, with a candle in one hand, their long skirts in the other, and a baby…where?
At 10:30, even though I wasn\’t sleepy, I decided to go to bed. I was wondering how to brush my teeth–should I use the water that had been stored for months in the jug, and if so, how would I pour it? Suddenly, the lights came on. And I thought, wow, I can brush my teeth! I can flush the toilet! I can find my pajamas! and for a couple of minutes these thoughts made me happy.
But then came the obligatory reflections on the extent of our dependence on non-renewable resources, the fragility of our accustomed way of life, the fact that this power outage was a mere taste of the deprivation under which most of humanity labors every single day. And right away I was less happy.