Sunday, January 24, 2016

Powerless in the face of powerlessness

The winter weather made for an adventurous weekend. The rain and, alternately, sleet began falling early in the morning on Friday. By late afternoon ice was beginning to coat and weigh down the tree branches. When I went out to do animal chores around four o'clock, the wind had begun to gust. I could hear the trees creaking under the weight. Branches from the tall pines in the woods along our back fence line were falling at every gust of wind with a distinctive crack and whoosh. The fluorescent lights in the barn flickered, and then the power went off for good.

The beautiful sunrise Sunday morning, with the power restored.

From the point when the power went out, the adventure was trying to find a way to stay warm. Earlier in the year I had purchased a 3,500-watt generator. Now the generator found its way onto the screen porch, and I
figured out how to add the oil and gasoline. For the moment I felt proud of my foresight and preparedness. But the feeling only lasted until I realized that I didn't know how to get the extension cord into the house. Although I eventually devised a way to string it through the window above the kitchen, the next thirty hours of powerlessness in terms of electricity left me feeling powerless--and humbled by how dependent we are upon some fragile lines carrying alternating electric current over immense distances from God only knows where.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but we certainly could have been more prepared. Our one 1,500-watt space heater was woefully inadequate, even when we closed off the bedrooms and bathroom
and concentrated on heating only the main part of the house during that first chilly night of camping in the living room. Although we did our best to keep a fire blazing in the fireplace, the wet firewood that I was able to scrounge from around the property combusted with only with a great deal of coaxing, and then only with decided reluctance. It wasn't until late Saturday afternoon that I managed to get my temperamental chainsaw running so that I could cut some bigger pieces from the trunk an old fallen oak tree along the fence line. But even the better firewood and the addition of a second space heater couldn't bring the temperature above sixty degrees.

Camping out in the living room Friday night

So, we were humbled by the snowstorm that they are calling Jonas and our powerlessness to fight its effects on our own. Rosemary and I can only imagine what those farther north were dealing with--and our prayers go out so that they make it through the rest of the weekend. For our part, the humility that can result from powerlessness is a good thing, a virtue, in fact. We were particularly humbled, for example, by the friends who reached out to ask if we were making it through the storm all right, even in one case stopping by to make sure. We are humbled and grateful to our friends in Wake Forest, the Govans, who hosted Rosemary and the boys last night in their warm guest bedroom. For my part, I headed home from the Govans yesterday night to keep an eye over the house and the animals. And, lo and behold, the power was back on, and the heat was already up to sixty-six degrees in the house. And so, we are grateful for God, for family, and for friends--oh, and electricity, too, blessed electricity.

Staying warm in front of the fire and watching a DVD.

Imprisoned in the playpen due to his tendency to play with fire (literally)

The animals didn't seem to mind the ice too much. I suppose electricity doesn't affect them.
A chicken walks off into the sun(rise) 

A beautiful buildup of ice on the wire of the chicken run.

One more shot of the beautiful but icy sunrise this morning.

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