Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Blessings On The Roof

It flat poured all night long, and into the morning. We have a metal roof here at the cabin and it sounded like the saints were throwing a party while God was out of town. Dave agreed to spend the day having me read my novel to him. Six hours in, I was getting hoarse, but carried on, emboldened by the fact he was still conscious. It rained on. We had beers.

But it was getting stuffy in the cabin, and we weren't either of us designed to sit for hours. We went for a walk. Put our rain gear on, of course, but the drips by this time were all coming from the bodacious canopy of drenched fir trees. It got dark. We came back. Rustled up some beer and artichoke dip and found crackers in the cupboard ("Best By 2012"). Mountain food!

And no sooner had we sat down than someone sliced up a fat wedge of weather and slapped us upside the windows with it. 100-foot-tall trees squinted down at us and lined us up in their sights. Things was flying. Miss Gulch and her bicycle, diced to pieces, sailed past in a rapidly disintegrating swarm. Our eyebrows shot up to our hairlines and stayed there. And we both felt it at the same time: the irresistible urge to check the weather app. What was going to happen? Was it going to rain forever? Was there going to be a break? These were all knowable items.

In that somebody, somewhere knew them.

Well, it felt irresistible, but it wasn't. Because there was no weather app. Our phones lay inert on the counter, plugged in to maintain power, because they lose power so fast here: straining and searching for the mothership, a biddable satellite, their little tentacles dangling for a connection. There isn't one. Rain pounded the place, and we had to just let it, and assume it knew what it was doing. We couldn't do a thing about it.

On an ordinary day, when we could get a weather app and see what's coming, we kind of thought we could do something; we could avoid ambush; we could strategize. Aha, we would think. You thought we'd be surprised by this shower coming in nineteen minutes, but we aren't. We saw you coming. You think you're so smart, Weather. Our trouser pockets have radar right in them.

Tell you what else we don't know, here. We don't know if anyone commented on my blog. We don't know if someone's trying to get hold of us. We're not entirely sure what day of the week it is. We've got a social obligation tomorrow, unless it's the day after, or unless we already missed it. Somebody with more power than he earned probably did something massively stupid today, again, and we don't know what it was. We don't know the name of the filmmaker guy who's married to Frances McDormand. We do know we love Frances McDormand. We do know how many beers we have left in the fridge. We do know to wear rain gear when we go out.

It takes a few days to get over not knowing. It takes just that long to go back in time, say, twenty-five years, when we made idle talk and rummaged in our own brains for bits of missing trivia, instead of tipping it out of our phones, where our species' collective memory is now stored. It wouldn't take more than a good gust of unpredicted wind on a loose-footed Douglas fir tree to send us back to the nineteenth century, when, inexplicably, people seemed to navigate life just fine.

Here's what I know. I know that the water here is sweet, and that I can walk a long, long way. I know my baby loves me. I know that if I trip and fall on a long, long walk, someone will probably help me out. I know that if there's no one to help me out and I die in the woods, it's all the same to the woods. And if it's all the same to the woods, it's okay by me.

41 comments:

  1. People are getting ever more dependent on technology, which I think is a dangerous thing. I'm not one of these "survivalists" who have a fully-stocked fallout shelter in their backyards. But I am always aware that the grid could go down, and then where would we be? People don't grow things to eat, let alone can it. Hell, they don't even cook anymore. No one knows how to fix anything, 'cause everything is disposable -- even when it shouldn't be. We are a nation of toddlers, and technology is the only grown-up around. God help us if the grown-up ever leaves us. We'd be screwed.

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    1. mimimanderly, when I was a kid back in Delaware (50s and 60s) several of my neighbors built fallout shelters. The way things are going now they might just get a chance to use them.

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    2. As a Northern Virginia resident in the '50s and '60s, I remember the fallout shelters. Great place to make out! Mimianderly, I'm a mix: not technologically competent and also not real competent in the old ways either. I used to be able to fold a map though.

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  2. It's nice to get away and be off the grid for a while, pretend to be pioneers. As long as there is food and water so you don't have to hunt.

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    1. You just about have to be in a dead zone to not be checking your devices all the time. I wonder how that happened?

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  3. Sounds wonderful! I used to love "snow day" when I lived up north; no phone, no driving, sometimes no electricity. But the wood stoves were hot and the silence deep.

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    1. Bella Coola. Half way up the BC coast.

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    2. Actually, Firvale, 50 kilometres "up valley" from Bella Coola. Under 25 residents, no store, party line phone.

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    3. So ten minutes after reading this, I opened my Nature Conservancy magazine and saw a map of Bella Coola.

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  4. Watch out for widowmakers on those hikes, Doug firs are notorious for them during wind.

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    1. I do have a friend who got beaned by a Douglas fir and should have died, but one of the LifeFlight crew members was a first-day guy and he insisted they haul him in to the ER, even though the seasoned crew said he was dead. He was in a coma for a long time and couldn't speak for months.

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  5. I don't get weather like that in my hood, so I'm more envious of your adventure into the woods, tin roof music and rain drips notwithstanding. Love your tale and glad you have a novel and someone to read it to. Adding beer and 2012 crackers, now that's just rubbing it in. Happy writing/walking/rain spotting!

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    1. I rarely get tired of the rain, and this winter has tested us. As I believe I wrote once before, people are contemplating slashing their wrists just to see some color.

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  6. Sounds like my neighborhood. I have to get close to town for my cell phone to work. Through the miracle of modern science we have satellites that work, but only if the weather is good. If the clouds get too thick it is gone. If the wind blows a little too hard the lights are gone. We revert back to the 1800's several times a year, but not for long, so far.

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    1. Seems odd to me that we could live by our wits for a million years and then have a hundred years of Improvements and suddenly go all stupid.

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  7. "Blessings on the roof" eh? ... as long as "blessings" isn't another word for "big honkin' trees" ...

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    1. My sister said in Maine they call chicken shit "Hen blessings."

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  8. P.S. Does Tater go with you to your cabin?

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    1. She do. She likes it there. She doesn't like GOING there.

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    2. Never met a cat yet who likes the GOING part :)

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  9. Before technology, the irresistible urge to check the Weather App was the progenitor of religion.

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  10. We've had mixed success getting away from it all and leaving the 21st Century behind. Back in 2009, we had a 12 day holiday on North Ronaldsay, a wee island in the Orkney archipelago. 4 miles by 1 mile and with a population of about 70. One of the things we were getting away from was Police helicopters. Not in an on-the-run sense, mind. At the time, I worked for a firm which supplied equipment for these aircraft, so the sight and sound of an EC355 was very familiar to me. Which made it very odd to hear one over a neighbouring island, as the nearest aircraft should've been 250 miles away in Glasgow. Turned out there was a missing persons alert. Then, a few days later, the priest from another island visited North Ron and we got chatting, as you do, we'll talk to practically anybody. And so that was how we learned of the passing of Michael Jackson, "Haven't you heard?!" Er... no.

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    1. How can someone go missing on a wee island?

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    2. Sadly, the reason was unnatural and terminal. A reminder that not every day is a script for 'Northern Exposure'.

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  11. We're just a couple of weeks through the "other side" of a cyclone which knocked out phone and power for a while (for a looong while in some cases) and gas stations were pumping diesel only
    Not having any sort of phone was not the catastrophe for us that it was for many others!

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    1. No, it wouldn't be for me either, but I do check the buggers. It's a weird dependency but I get over it faster than some.

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  12. Ah - one more reason I'm smart phone-free! In fact, my cell phone is turned on briefly perhaps once or twice a month, if I have an "emergency" inquiry to make when I'm at the grocery store, for instance. I mainly just carry it in case of emergencies (which, honestly, hardly ever happen).
    When my husband and I travel, we never check email and keep our phones off unless we're expecting a call. Part of the joy of getting away from home, for me, is being . . . AWAY. It's a sort of blessed state of being that mystifies most of my friends. (Betcha thought I didn't have any!)

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    1. Sure you have friends. They're the people in the contact list in your ph...never mind.

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  13. Not being connected has a LOT of charm some days.

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    1. I'm deliberately less connected to the news now.

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  14. Your third picture looks like a face sticking its tongue out. Was that intentional?

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  15. "straining and searching for the mothership, a biddable satellite, their little tentacles dangling for a connection." Priceless!

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    1. You know? It might not even be a satellite. I don't know how it works. Even when it doesn't.

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  16. When is your novel scheduled to be available to us?

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    1. Oh I wish. This is my third, and my agent is shopping it to publishers now. If I get a deal, the first novel might see the light of day. The second? Not so much!

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  17. That's beautiful, Murre. Stripping it down to the elements--there's value in that. I bought a generator with the last $800 I had after our last nine-day power outage. And of course there hasn't been another big one since. Much as I hated having my Google/email/social media wings clipped, much as I hated cooking everything in the fridge and washing Tupperware incessently as I was forced to clean out said fridge (and freezer), I did enjoy falling asleep naturally at 8 pm, nodding off to candle light, the way we used to, and how silent the house was. Mwah.

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    1. Ooh, I remember your power outage. And your freezers. Nothing like sucking on a Pea Popsicle to get you some perspective. I'm glad you got a generator though. When my sister Margaret got one, it was worth everything in security-points. Of course, she WAS on oxygen...so there's that...

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