Cutting Your Own Path

Speaking of metaphors . . .

We lost power in Maine early Sunday afternoon.  The storm felled an oak tree across our road, taking out the power lines and blocking the way.  Without that immediate problem we would have lost power anyway, as the entire area went dark Sunday afternoon.  One wire lay on the ground. The oak lay suspended on the others, with its top hung up in other trees. Without the potential for electrocution removing the tree would have been a bit dicey–it will spring and move when either end is cut free–but I would have done it.  I don’t mess with electricity.  I left the tree alone.

Neighbors shared our Sunday dinner–pasta with tomato sauce from tomatoes just picked from our garden, cooked on the gas stove–and as darkness fell we played Scrabble and read by flashlight.

Monday’s weather was glorious.  When I swam at 7 am the lake–roiling, churning mud washed from its banks, choked with broken branches and torn pipe weed 12 hours earlier–was perfectly still.  The air, its temperature in the low 60’s, felt scrubbed clean and the sky was free of clouds.  The water, still a bit turbid, was remarkably clear given it’s recent chaotic pea-soupy condition.  It promised to be a wonderful Maine day, with two large overhanging questions:  when would the fallen tree be cleared, and when CMP restore power?

I prepared to deal with things as they were, without total success.  I pictured the day unfolding–a bike ride around the lake (I’d walk the bike through the woods around the felled tree and downed wires), a few hours work preparing for the semester until my laptop battery died, swimming, reading on the dock, more Scrabble, grilling all of the meat in the freezer, dining outside by candlelight as the sun set.  Very idyllic, but I could not forget that my fully-powered house was 150 miles away.

I considered this as I headed to bike.  Walking through the woods around the blocked road the solution began to form.  Most of the trees were saplings spaced many feet apart, and it seemed possible to cut a large enough path between the large trees to squeeze through my truck. The bike ride confirmed that power would likely be out for a while.  There was not much tree damage but the electricity was out all around the lake, which meant the outage was widespread, which meant that three houses with blocked access on our dead-end road would be a low priority.

Meanwhile Judy had already lined up a ride to Portland where she and Nate could catch a bus back to Boston. The bus was not an option for me–or more accurately, for the dogs–and the appeal of remaining powerless at the camp for what could be many days was waning fast.  I called the neighbor who owns the land where I’d bypassed the road and explained that I wanted to remove just enough trees for my truck to fit. He said “like I give a shit about those trees.”

I enlisted the support and help of another neighbor and we went to work.  Two hours later we’d driven out my truck and the neighbor’s Volvo wagon.  (Getting it through required widening and regrading the path a bit.)  I relaxed once I knew we were not dependent on anyone else’s help to leave. We enjoyed the rest of the day on the dock. I took a long swim. We emptied the refrigerator and freezer.  We were on the road shortly before 6 pm.

Now, almost 72 hours after the storm hit, the power in the camp is still out.

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Sunset Story

A Maine neighbor recently said there were vestibular bats roosting at her house.  “Vestibular?”  It’s her idiosyncratic locational, not species, description.  The bats hang upside down in her vestibule in the middle of the night, resting and digesting for a while before flying off for another meal.  On the dock for tonight’s twilight swim I discovered umbrellic bats (bumbershootal bats for Anglophiles).  The lake, completely calm, reflected a reddish-orange band of light filtered through the low clouds on the horizon.  Entranced by the sunset I did not initially register the nearby squeaks.  They persisted, I heard them, and knew bats to be their source.  Two market umbrellas on the dock are the only places a bat could hide; the squeaks came from the larger umbrella on the right.  I loosened its ties, slowly spread its ribs, and looked inside.  A furry brown knot perched at the top of the pole, a short distance from the umbrella’s highest vents.  It was difficult to distinguish the knots features but it looked to contain at least two bats.  I did not want to disturb it further, gently closed the umbrella, and sat with one eye watching the sunset and the other watching for the bats to crawl from beneath the canvas.  Ten minutes later the sun was down.  Despite many squeaks from within the umbrella no bat emerged.  I tired of waiting and returned to the house.

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Better than Chelmsford

At 9:15 last night I left class and stepped into the empty Chelmsford parking lot. A waxing moon rose over the warm summer night.  We planned to drive to Maine Friday morning but listening to the night sounds and breathing the humid air under soft moonlight I thought this time tomorrow night I could be enjoying the summer night on the lake.  And that’s what I did.

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