My English students keep journals, which are submitted to me every Monday for reading, correction, and commentary. There was a fairly standard sequence from last Monday to this past Sunday; something like: hopefulness, bliss, disillusionment, annoyance. Or, in outbursts: “Snow! Maybe class will be canceled!” Then, “No class! So much snow!” Then, “No power! Not so fun anymore!” Then, “I’m cold and miserable!”
For a storm that started out much more wondrous and spectacular, the aftermath was a bit less satisfying for many. I can recall only one storm that was of this caliber in my lifetime and locale—the flood of 1996 in my hometown of Woodland, WA, in which we had to leave our home for a few days because of floodwaters and also earned a visit from then-president Bill Clinton, whom I met (“met” meaning he walked by and shook my hand in a crowd without looking me in the eye).
The scene on Wednesday was spectacular (pictures below, with credit as always to Joann for her brilliant artistry). On Thursday, around 10am or so, we lost power. After spending the day at the mall, including seeing separate movies (we couldn’t agree on one, so we peacefully split, her seeing “The Iron Lady” and me “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”…any other couples ever done this?), we returned to a cold apartment.
After moving all our fridge and freezer food to the porch and encasing it in bags of snow, we started a fire, lit copious amounts of candles, and enjoyed an evening of reading and card games. And smoke. (I think our fireplace may be clogged; we’ve never previously had problems, but our apartment still smells slightly smoky today, five days later.)
We listened throughout the evening to branches breaking outside, collapsing under the weight of snow and ice, threatening to fall onto rooftops and windshields. We actually left town on Friday, primarily for an appointment in Portland that weekend, though we didn’t mind moving to a warmer home.
On our way out of town last Friday, we stopped at Starbucks, finding a packed café, a long line, a scarcity of breakfast food and no available outlets; people were seeking warmth, food, and a place to charge their phones. Panera Bread, our second destination in search of breakfast, felt like a giant living room as it was also packed with in-use laptops and charging phones.
Apparently our power came back on Friday evening. But many in the area are still without power. Earlier today, many of our students who live at Evergreen were without electricity; teachers were prepared to host students for a night, until just a few hours ago when the power was restored—news met with cries of jubilation among the students.
It was a mess…accidents, messy roads, cold houses, falling trees. But…what a memory, and what an adventure. I know a lot of people were miserable, and I don’t want to diminish that. But I get the sense from some of those who suffered (or are still suffering) that it was (and perhaps continues to be) a welcome interruption. It forced people to slow down, to stop. It forced people to live simply. It forced people to talk to one another.
It provided a challenge, a test of character. Some likely failed such tests, including me. A driver across the intersection was visibly frustrated with me at a powerless traffic light, probably because he thought I should have gone earlier than I did. I get annoyed when people are annoyed with me; it's a fault, a deficiency, I'll confess. It certainly doesn't reveal a peaceful spirit. As I eventually passed him, I threw my hands up in mockery of him, as if to say, "I know, I'm an idiot, aren't I? Feels good to call me an idiot, doesn't it?"
Fail. Silly right? Doesn't make me look awesome, at least. My wife rightly put me in my place, suggesting I probably just looked angry and my attempt to “educate and pastor" this angry driver was misguided and ultimately a failure. Shame on me, truly. Attempting to live virtuously is not without challenges and frequent missteps.
But many others passed these tests, acting with wisdom, care for others, a sense of right action, hard work, and great patience and endurance. It was one of those moments that can bring out the best in people. And even those who suffered a bit, I suspect many of them secretly (or openly) enjoyed and are enjoying the adventure of it all. I think people often complain about things that they really don’t mind all that much; I sense this was one of those “miserable” experiences that brought a secret delight to many.
But I’m glad it’s passing, as more and more people seem to be getting their power back and returning to school, work, and warmth. But what a week! We won’t forget it.
Some pictures, from Wednesday, before things got out of hand: