We were up in Gloucester, the nation’s oldest seaport, the sign boasts, walking along the boulevard. I stood in front of the brass statue of a brave fisherman, the symbol of the town, I was looking down at the plaques of men that had lost their lives to the sea. I vaguely remembered a cartoon I had seen a long time ago; a grizzled old fisherman sat at a bar, a half empty pint before him, crazed eyes looked past the glass, his wrinkled mouth was saying,
“I remember the Nor-eastah of ’78,” I don’t remember the punch line, but with a scene that strange to my mind I don’t think a punch line was really necessary. I don’t think I knew what a Nor-easter was, I had a vague assumption that it was a large and frightening storm, and in my San Diegan mind reserved for harsh and far away places. As I stood looking at those names I thought,
‘Nor-easter….I think that’s here,’ a vague sense of dread crept in at the corners. What had we moved to.
In the two years we’ve lived here we’ve has two threats of large and frightening storms. Both came and went without much ado. School closed down, we snuggled with books and movies. Our power stayed on, our trees stayed standing, and when things dried out live went on as normal. This one seemed different, bigger, scarier, colder. Yesterday morning I braved the pre-storm flurries for a trip to Starbucks, a date with my daughter and a purchase of coffee, the one staple that we might use up. The coffee shop was packed, the barista told me that everyone was acting like they wouldn’t have coffee for weeks. Some had even bought huge cups of brewed coffee to store in their freezer. I just bought ground coffee, if we lost power we would need it ground and we could use our camping stove and French press to make sure we don’t go un-caffeinated. I called my husband while I was out, did we need anything else? No, he said.
That afternoon as the wind picked up and the snow began to come in at diagonals we filled up water bottles and pulled out candles and flashlights. We discussed filling the bathtub, but decided that might be a silly move. Mostly I pictured our weak plug letting it all leak out overnight. We made quesadillas for dinner and watched Beauty and the Beast. The news tried to terrify us with tales of nine inches in Amesbury and no power in Fitchburg. I prayed we would keep power. We are so dependent on power that when it goes away we are left hamstrung, clueless as how to live. Only one moment did I still wish that I lived back in weatherless San Diego.
At three in the morning when our baby woke I tried to think positive; the little red and blue lights of our electronic appliances still shone, I might be awake, but we still have power. I did get a little irrationally angry at the beeping of the plow clearing out the elementary school parking lot behind our house. Do you have to beep at this hour of the night?
That morning we woke to large snow drifts and hot coffee brewed in our coffee maker, delivered to us courtesy of electricity. After breakfast burritos I suited up to shovel. There was still wind and still falling snow, I always debate to shovel half way through a storm or wait until the end. I think I have decided that shoveling six inches twice is easier than shoveling one foot once. I stood at the top of our stairs, how do I shovel this? I love shoveling snow, I didn’t grow up with it so I still appreciate it’s novelty and workout factor. I still feel like locals can tell that I don’t really know what I’m doing, I suppose there’s no right way to shovel. Do people take their children out put a shovel in their hands and show them how? I remember the first snow I experienced living in Chicago. I went out and shoveled our long driveway…scrape, scrape, scrape, flick. I was so excited about the great workout that I was getting that I shoveled the neighbor’s drive too. The next morning my body woke sore to the sound of… SCRAPE, FLICK. Someone with more experience was clearing their drive.
I decided to plant the shovel at the beginning of the stair and scrape outward, flicking snow forward, all the way down two flights of stairs. During the process I looked over, my neighbor’s head was poked out of her backdoor, laughing at the monstrous pile of snow in her backyard. We shouted back and forth, laughing at the mess that Mother Nature had brought. Once I reached the bottom I realized the drift at the bottom was well past my knees. I decided to walk to the end of the drive to see what I could see. I post-holed down, all the way up to my knees, still feeling a few inches of snow beneath each foot. With the vehicle ban still in place my busy street was white and empty, not eerie, but peaceful. So strange to be crushed under this much snow in a semi-urban environment, the pile of white stuff seemed fitting in rural Colorado where you expected life to be slower and tougher. I guess nature still owns the earth, and she will do with it what she wants, no matter where you live.