Power Struggle

by on February 24th, 2011
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For 12 years and about 50 weeks, I’ve been saying I came here for dark and quiet. I rail at my neighbors with their floodlights and leaf-blowers. You live at a lake, for Pete’s sake, in the woods! What do you think the leaves are there for? I not only don’t blow or rake my leaves, I don’t keep a lawn. One patch became the fernery, the other the meadow and then the poplar grove. I was delighted when last year a couple of milkweed plants appeared right out front, and this spring they were a half dozen. I hope yet for monarchs. I know the folks across the street, with their postage stamp of manicured grass and tidy borders, don’t share my appreciation of the deer that curb the enthusiasm of hostas overplanted by my predecessor. But I’ve never had to pick up my trash from their yard after a visit by bears that remember years ago, before those neighbors got their bear-proof cans and the bears learned to pop those open too, by sitting on them.

Now, however, for the second extended period in two months, I’ve got dark but even less quiet. There’s a tree broken over the wires out near the entrance that was washed out by Hurricane Irene. No power, no phone. Go out to another town for Internet, but even the main branch of the county library is down. Work out at the YMCA because I’m ashamed to just shower and leave. (No water is being pumped from my cherished private well, and of course the oil burner isn’t heating the nonwater.) But when I get back to the cats’ queries as to why we’re all cold and I’m bumping around in the dark, and the TV is off, it isn’t quiet. The community roars with generators.

Yes, it’s not yet quite November. Our power service is notoriously fragile, and the company slow to attend to our pocket of only 125 families (don’t tell them that’s when all the summer and weekend people are here). So I may break down and have my own generator before the winter’s spent. But in the meantime, I have just a few pleas for my better-prepared neighbors (and I promise to heed my own words if I do get a machine):

Don’t use it to power outside lights. This is especially offensive among those of you near the entrance to the lake, who get my hopes up coming home from my wi-fi seeking, and those whose lights penetrate my bedroom windows. OK, you last shouldn’t use regular power for those lights. I want to see the stars.
Don’t tell me how much you’re spending for gas for the generator, or how much time you spend running out to get the gas, or flash the pickup load of gas cans at me. I get it. You get no sympathy for your troubles.
Don’t complain to me about the noise your generator makes, and especially don’t do this as you ask your son to go restart the thing because you just have to have a cup of coffee after work. At least, don’t mention coffee unless you’re inviting me to join you.
Yeah. Don’t mention coffee. Or showers. Or what’s in your slow-cooker. The jury’s still out on the turkey thighs that were in mine during the storm, and would have exactly hit the spot if things had gone as planned.
Don’t think even twice about how batty I’ve become to dress like this. The hat is both to corral the hair I dread giving its morning spritz of conditioner so a comb stands a chance, and to keep more of the calories I manage to generate from food inside my body. I get enough looks from the cats, but at least they pile onto me whenever I sit down, and we share body heat.

I feel guilty about the cats. They seem to be eating extra kibble to generate that heat they share. They don’t mind the dark, except for sometimes getting stepped on. And actually, the noise of their generators is a whole different question. If I can find a place to post this, I think I’ll go home and let Rupert cuddle up to my ear again and start his engine. I can even stand the kibble breath.

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