Sitting in the Dark Without My Toys

OMG, is this the wildest November ever? The election, COVID, hurricanes, Zoom Thanksgiving. Is God pissed off or what?

What a weekend I had. It would have been enough to play and sing at St. Anthony’s in Waldport for two funerals in two days and then do a regular weekend Zoom Mass.

Friday we said goodbye to Phil Rilatos, a good guy whom I didn’t get to meet. Saturday, our Mass was for a beloved friend, Roy Robertson. Since he and his wife Mary Lee Scoville were musicians, we musicians turned out in force—as much as we could while following the COVID restrictions, masks, distancing, and limited numbers. When the barbershoppers sang the same song that Roy and his quartet sang for my husband’s funeral, I became a weepy mess. We all were. Roy was probably up in heaven grinning his gap-toothed grin and singing along.

So there was that.

And there was Gov. Brown’s announcement that Oregon would be going into a two-week lockdown starting Nov. 18 to try to stop the soaring numbers of COVID-19 cases.

But there was more. Thursday night into Friday morning, we had rain, lightning, and high winds. Early Thursday morning, on Birch Street–the only way in and out of our neighborhood–a tree fell on a power line, knocking out the electricity.

A long, dark day and night followed. Fifteen powerless hours, most of them spent huddled by the wood stove in my den. I wrote, played guitar, tried to read, made phone calls on the ancient Princess phone that still works, and ate cold food by candlelight.

Staring into the flames made me think about a lot of things. Being alone. Sitting around campfires with my friends. How much I depend on the distractions of cell phone, computer, TV, and all my other toys. How I should have bought more AA batteries.

The power returned at 8 p.m. Dazed by the light, I thanked God and the power company and eased back into regular life. That was Friday night.

Saturday we attended Roy’s funeral. Lots of tears. After my friend Pat and I ate a substandard lunch in a chilly restaurant where they were clearly starting to scale down staff and supplies for the coming shutdown, the St. Anthony’s choir did the second Mass.

Finally, at 5:00, I could go home. It was raining again, the wind blowing so hard we could barely stand in one place. But at home, I could eat a hot meal, watch TV, and hang out with Annie.

God had other plans. As I turned off 101, I noticed the lights were out. Swell. But there was more. Turning onto Birch, I faced a wall of fallen trees and dangling wires. I could not get home. I got out of the car and looked for a way to walk or crawl through, but it wasn’t safe.

I called 911. They said help was on the way.

How long would it take? Should I go to a motel? I had no other clothes, no pills, and my old dog Annie was alone.

Total darkness. Now my cell phone didn’t work. I had no one to talk to except God. I prayed.

It was too dark and spooky, and I was surrounded by trees that could fall. I drove up the highway to the South Beach Post Office where there was light and phone service. As I sat in the parking lot, rain sheeted down the windshield while wind pummeled my car. I was cold, hungry and starting to need a restroom. My black slacks were wet from walking out in the rain.

After a while, I drove back to my neighborhood and parked behind the big Public Works trucks. A guy in a yellow slicker told me they would try to clear the road enough to get a car through, but it would take a half hour or so.

I sat in my car, rain pouring, my hazard lights blinking lest someone unaware come barreling into the back of my Honda. I watched the green arrows blinking, watched the rain pouring down my windows. I prayed my house was okay, that none of my trees had fallen.

At 7:10, the yellow slicker guy told me I could drive through, carefully. And I was home! It was dark and cold, but I only cared that I was home. As much as I could see, everything looked fine. I built my fire, lighted my candles, scavenged dinner for me and Annie, and waited for daylight.

            Early Sunday, I heard chainsaws. At 11 a.m., the lights came on. It was dark for 18 ½ hours this time. I threw out most of the food in my refrigerator, glad I hadn’t found the energy to go shopping last week.

            Monday, I bought food at Fred Meyer to restock the fridge. The store was jammed with people stocking up for the shutdown. Toilet paper was disappearing fast. Here we go again.

            Do I trust the lights to stay on? No. The wind is blowing hard again today. But there’s a little patch of blue between the clouds. I’m just grateful to be here and so thankful for the workers who go out in the dark and the rain to clear the way for people like me to go home.

            So that was my weekend? How was yours?

Miralax Run and Dogsled Downhill

Been watching the Olympics? Me too, but in between, I’ve been competing in my own Oregon Coast Olympic events. Not sanctioned by the IOC, of course, but just as challenging. Let me describe a few of these events for you.
Miralax Run: To be done in preparation for my every-five-years colonoscopy, in which doctors send a tiny bobsled with a camera up my colon. I began with five days of a restricted diet and one day of nothing but liquid. Then came the big event, four laxative pills and 16 glasses of lemon Crystal Light laced with laxative powder, to be drunk between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. before reporting to the hospital at 6:45 a.m. I spent the next nine hours on a drink-and-run marathon, reaching the bottom of the pitcher just in time. Lost a few style points along the way, but I made it to the finish line.
Dogsled Downhill: Ten days ago, the coast was covered in snow and ice, but Annie still needed her walks. So I pulled on my flowered plastic boots and hit the slopes of 98th Street. My pooch pulled me up hill and down through patches of snow, ice, and slush while I screamed, “Don’t pull!” “Slow down!” and “Aaaaaah!” We finished in 497th place.
Slush Slalom: As the snow melted, the dog and I slid through the slush. Annie darted back and forth across the road, sniffing every weed, Starbuck’s cup, and pile of poo while I shushed along behind her, trying to stay up on my ski boots. Our form was less than perfect and we failed to earn a medal.
Pellet Stove Pentathlon: You drive to the lumber yard, load up the car with 40-pound bags of pellets, slide home through the snow, unload the bags in the garage, carry the bags one at a time into the house, load them into the hopper, adjust the thermostat, and watch the clock as the stove hums and twiddles its sooty thumbs. First competitor to see sparks wins. If the stove sighs and goes silent, push the reset button and start again. No medals here either.
Hot Tub Hustle: There’s nothing like soaking in 100-degree water under the stars, but one 30-degree night when the snow was all gone, I stuck my foot in and jumped into the air, did a triple flip and landed back on the deck. The hot tub was cold. Fast forward to standing with a service guy in pounding rain as he tested the electrical circuits and declared the heating element dead. While he ordered a new one, I moved on to the next event, draining the tub with a pump and garden hose while hail bounced off my head, the deck and the surface of the water and the dog hid inside because she’s no fool. Results pending return of service guy.
Flying Tree Fling: The snow and ice melted, and we were glad, but then the rain and wind came. As lawns turned to marshes and water rose in the ditches to the level of the road, 75-mile-an-hour gusts sent trees, signs, and yard art flying. The table on my deck moved three feet east. Bits of trees fell everywhere, and the giant tent just put up for next weekend’s Newport Seafood and Wine Festival collapsed into a pile of metal rods and torn canvas. I think I saw Dorothy’s house flying toward Oz. My house is still here. I win.
We have another week before the Sochi Olympics closing ceremony. Locally, the rest of the schedule remains unknown. But at least we have avoided Bob Costas’ pink eye plague.
May you rack up maximum points in every event this week.