Still no heat–and then it snowed

snow-1417cThose who follow this blog will remember that last week I was struggling with a dead pellet stove and a conglomeration of space heaters that kept tripping the single electrical circuit that powers my kitchen and living room. The temperature had landed firmly in the 30s, and it was COLD. I had taken to wearing thermal underwear in the house, moved to the bedroom that was a couple degrees warmer and allowed the dog to join me for added warmth.

It stayed cold all week. On Wednesday, the third time weathercasters predicted we might have snow, it finally happened. I could see the white light coming through the windows before I crawled out of bed. Snow everywhere. Pretty. Powdery. Magical. But underneath that snow lay ice. Hard, slippery, can’t walk-on-it, can’t-drive-on-it ice. Everything canceled. Schools, meetings, my dentist appointment. We were stuck in the house with puny heat, except for a slip-sliding walk. Annie and I learned that pavement is bad, grass is good, and mud is messy but it holds onto your shoes.

The snow stuck around until Saturday. It was too cold to melt. But the roads cleared up. I got out on Thursday for a haircut and much-needed groceries. Free at last! I know, it was one day, and nothing compared to the folks stuck for weeks with snow up to their roofs, but I was running out of food.

Friday, the electrical outlet into which I had plugged the biggest space heater and my tiny Christmas tree ceased working, taking the porch light out with it. We have some interesting wiring around here. I played with the circuit breaker switches. No go. Plugged and unplugged, wiggled and shoved. Called my electrician dad, who said get it fixed immediately; you could have a short that might start a fire. Crap. Freezing and fighting electrical problems. At least a fire would be warm.

Broke and disheartened, I called my neighbor. “Do you know anything about electricity?” He replied, “I know if you stick your finger in the socket, you get a shock.” Funny. I explained my problem. He limped over on his healing broken ankle and was soon crouched on my floor pulling out my dead plug. A wire had gotten disconnected. Stuff is all corroded in there, he said. He fixed it. The lights went on. Glad to help, he said. Thank God for small towns and friendly neighbors.

While the neighbor worked on my plug, I took down my Christmas decorations. Not in the mood anymore.

All day Friday, the temperature seemed to go down instead of up. On our brief walk, the cold wind tore at my skin and made me want to cry. But Saturday it started to get warmer. And then the rain came. It got warmer still. I took off a layer of clothing. The patter of rain on the skylights sounded like music.

It rained hard. It rained cold. It rained sideways. I got soaked in five minutes in the yard. My gutters overflowed. New leaks sprang up in the laundry and garage. But this is all normal for January on the Oregon coast. It’s still frozen east of here, so I feel blessed. This morning at 9 a.m., it’s 42.8 degrees, and the only things frozen at my house are the ice cubes, peas and veggie burgers in my freezer.

No, the pellet stove is not fixed yet. I’m hoping it will happen today. But I’m warm enough.

NOTE: This was supposed to be just a caption for my snow photos. My brother wonders why people up here talk so much about the weather. We can’t help ourselves. It’s a new show every day.  I know this winter is crazy everywhere. Right now it’s flooding in California, land of perpetual drought. How is your weather? Tell us what’s happening at your house.

Morning on the Willamette River

I did not know there was a path along the river behind the Super 8 Motel in Corvallis. Last time I was here, everything was covered in snow andbadcb-dscn3690 ice. I walked cautiously in my boots, afraid of slipping, my fingers freezing despite my gloves as I snapped pictures in a quiet wonderland covered in white. The temperature was about 12 degrees. Even the edges of the Willamette River were frozen.

A rogue snowstorm had caught western Oregon by surprise. I was on my way home from San Francisco, where my father had just had heart surgery. There, it was cold but clear. When I landed at the Portland airport, I found my car encased in snow. I had trouble starting it, and my tire warning light was on. My feet slipped on the icy pavement. But I got onto I-5, drove south on partially cleared roads and took the turn onto Highway 34 toward the coast. That road had not been plowed. I crept along in a line of cars sliding all over and vowed to stop at the first motel I found. That was this Super 8 in Corvallis. For two days, I was snowed in, not daring to drive the rest of the way home. I walked along the river, and I walked into the town, enjoying the local stores and restaurants that were still open. Everything was quiet. No cars. All sounds muffled by snow.

This morning is IMG_20150216_081430223a different story. The snow is gone, and the sun is shining. It’s still cold, but no danger of frostbite. I walk slowly, still favoring the ankle I sprained in December. Cars and trucks roar by on Highway 34, exiting at second street, stopping at the traffic light. Along the river, the trees and shrubs are still winter bare, but now I can see the dirt. I can also see the litter, including evidence of drug use. Crows squawk at me from the trees, and a squirrel as big as a cat whooshes by. A homeless guy shouts good morning and mumbles something about fog. Fog? A jogger runs by in yellow shorts, and an old lady urges her equally old golden retriever along.

Without the snow, it’s a different world. I’m not as charmed by the all-carb motel breakfast and tea in a Styrofoam cup or the bathtub stopper that growls unless you hold it down with your foot. I’m all too aware of the work and meetings facing me back on the coast, all needing my attention today. I cannot claim a snow day.

But as I watch the river flowing by and the sun shining off the blue water, I’m glad I decided to stop here on my way home from a meeting in Portland and not just so I wouldn’t miss any of the three-hour “Bachelor” marathon on TV.

There’s something about a river that feels like a prayer.