A few small catastrophes


There had been this new gurgling noise in the pipes for a few days, which I had chosen to ignore.

Then the exterminator came upstairs and said hey, do you know you’ve got a big puddle of water down in the basement? And in fact the furnace was in the center of its own small lake and the heating guy shook his head and shut all the valves and asked do you have any space heaters? So Emily and Stellan packed off to a friend’s house for the night while I stay home to keep feeding the fireplace and hope it doesn’t get cold enough outside to freeze any pipes.

The ice storm starts in earnest at around eight o’clock. This will make getting the new furnace up the hill tomorrow an interesting project, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Some of this part is actually kind of fun, I have to admit — it’s the first time I’ve been alone in the house for more than a few hours at a time since our son was born, and I get to turn the volume up on my videogame and play the drums in the living room and do all the things you do when you’ve got the house to yourself.

At eleven o’clock the power goes out. This is inconvenient but not altogether surprising, and our house does look really beautiful by candlelight. No power means no water either, since the well pump won’t run, but I do have a swimming pool and a bucket at my disposal, and therefore am able to flush the toilet. So that’s good. It feels a little like camping.

At 6:30 when I wake up because the fire has gone out, there’s still no power and the automated emergency phone line promises restoration of service by midnight next Monday. For most customers. This is the power company’s way of saying, dude, have you looked outside lately? It’s a freaking ice storm out there.

It is. Our road is a worst-case scenario of fallen branches and ice-coated trees bent double; I spend the morning cutting them apart with a handsaw and dragging them out of the way. (note to self: be better about keeping a supply of gasoline for the chainsaw.)

It’s not actively raining anymore, but the wind is picking up, and every few minutes I can hear another tree splintering its way to the ground somewhere in the woods. At one point a branch hits the ground just a few feet away from where I’m standing.

This is the point when I start questioning how long I can really continue living in a landscape that actively wants to kill me.

The gas company explains that some roads are closed, but they’ll take the long way around. I have to clear the road again before they arrive, because some new trees have fallen to block it once more, but eventually they get their trucks up to the house, use flashlights to install the new furnace, and finish just as it’s getting dark outside. They tell me to call them when the power comes back on, so they can do the last bit of wiring and get the heat running again. I hadn’t thought of that part.

And so on. I could continue the play-by-play whingefest but it’s not that interesting. It all could have been much worse: we still have a propane heater for the basement which works without electricity, which seems to be enough to keep the house above freezing at least, and Ethan convinced me that keeping my vigil with the fireplace really wasn’t making much difference. So I (and my computer) have moved in with them too. It’s obviously going to be a long time before power gets restored — our whole town is out; powerlines are literally sitting on the ground in three different places I could see, and the spur line that runs to our house is down (and has a large tree leaning on it as well) so our place may be among the last to get lit up again. But the weather has warmed up, it’s not snowing anymore, and we have good friends who are gracious hosts who have power and heat and water and frankly better internet connectivity than we have at home. So it could be a lot worse.

This is all by way of saying that I’m a little behind on my christmas shopping this year.