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An autumn snow to remember

Beautiful fat, floaty flakes fluttered to the trees. Leaves were frosted with billows of meringue. Evening came, wind stirred the flakes into giant swirls. Popping, cracking sounds blasted into the night while trees, saplings to ancient warriors, splintered their branches. Twenty inches of heavy, wet snow squashed its weight on the woods.Then the power went out. Connecticut fell silently into blackness. So began a week of otherworldliness. Morning sun glistened on the snow, beautiful in its destruction. Trees not fallen or splintered were weeping to the ground in the morning light. Paths had to be cleared on the roads, both main highways and rural streets. Just paths. Cuts were sawn in the fallen trunks and debris was pushed to the sides of roads.Trees were toppled onto hammocks of wires. Large branches straddled the cables like tightrope walkers who made an uncomfortable mistake. Those beautiful Bradford pear trees which bless our early spring with lacy ovals of white were dismembered, and many splayed their branches on the ground in radiating ribs like a broken umbrella. So much for careful landscaping!Throughout the state, especially the Northwest Corner from Hartford to the New York and Massachusetts border, the effect of broken devastation and loss of power immobilized commerce and normal life. Shopping centers were vacant, gas stations could not pump, traffic lights were hanging useless over confused drivers who were trying to decide which car was on the right. “You first.” “No, after you.” Good manners in the face of adversity.Thankfully food stores, hospitals and some municipal buildings had generators to provide shelter, heat, food and water to millions of needy people, helpless in their spacious homes which were darkened, cold and unable to flush. Naturally, schools were closed. Students were suffering electronic withdrawal. No video games, DVDs, TV, phones. After the charges ran out, no Facebook posts! How was anyone to know how miserable we were?And then there was the freezer issue. After the third day, all had thawed, even with emergency ice supplies. Cold is not frozen. Strange menus ensued. Scrambled eggs with a side order of hors d’oeuvre-size spring rolls. French toast with shrimp cocktail. Panettone sliced and drizzled with melted orange Popsicle.Those with generators were generous. They shared their water, heat and showers, and most necessary, their outlets to recharge cell phones. In return, the needy shared thawed food with the lucky ones who still had rock hard frozen items and were under no pressure to consume.We settled in to the new normal. Dining by candlelight lost its charm. Eating before dark trumped. Washing dishes in the dark has little appeal. Washing dishes! Let’s remember the Home Economics lesson from the 1950s. Glasses first, silverware second. Then plates, and finally pots and pans, hopefully before the water was ice cold and slimy. The brand new Keurig coffeemaker was shoved aside to make room for the dish drain.Coffee! The essence of life! What a procedure! Boil water however you possibly can. Pour it over the coffee grounds, preferably not the ones from those little cuplets of Keurigs. And then funnel it into your cup. Now I remember a camping trick. Dump the grounds into the pot of boiling water, cook it for a while, then throw egg shells into the water and wait a while. The alum in the shells should help the grounds to sink to the bottom and allow you to pour slowly and carefully from the top, eliminating about half of the grounds from your cup.We went to bed earlier, slept later. Candles, flashlights and those wonderful headlamps became part of the evening procedure. Reading by the window, puzzle solving, making music and good old storytelling gradually covered the resentment of deprivation. It was, after all, an adventure.Yankee ingenuity, creative thinking and patience carry us through. The lights, water, phone, heat were finally restored. Bonds between struggling neighbors were strengthened and continue. Trees will be cleared and replanted. We will always remember the Halloween trick of 2011. Be grateful for power on Thanksgiving! Ann vonHoorn lives in New Preston.

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