The 10″ Snow Storm in October

2011 November 13
by Lorna

One has to be a very healthy, strong person to ‘just hold tight’ while listening to branches crashing onto the side of the house, then thumping heavily onto the earth, one branch after the other, not knowing if a window would be hit or the side of the house opened to the cold wind, or when the last branch would hit what. A weighty wet snowfall stuck to the leaves in the trees that had not yet fallen, until the branches could not hold the weight. Autumn came late this year and the snowstorm early. My 3 month old kitten Ruby kept 1/8th of my body warm, and me all of hers, under a folded down blanket. The entire neighborhood was dark, not a sound could be heard. At sunrise, so happy for light, I learned that it was not just my neighborhood or town that lost electricity, it was many towns and cities, that many people would suffer. The mountains were hazy, flat and white against a pure white sky, a very physical fog sitting on the open hay fields, as though it was glowing from within. The rising moon did not know how thick with wet snow the sky had been the night before.
‘What is lost holds possibility’ is how I saw my new situation. I was lost in my own house, (without the beloved wood stove that I had in Vermont all those years back), 35 degrees inside, and then there was the grieving of my beloved lost trees, each one a personal friend that I had planted, (except for the ancient catalpa), with it’s own personality. I heard the birch’s three tallest branches that bent onto the house the night before snap like toothpicks. An hour later the air became crisp and clear, the cobalt blue sky holding big white clouds, as though the storm had been a mere dream. But the remnants of fallen trees across the roads as I drove into town, the cables and electric wires sprawled everywhere, declared otherwise. Town looked like a war showed up. Some people died, of carbon monoxide poisoning trying to heat themselves.
One of the more embarrassing moments in my life was, on that second morning when I knew I could not stay in my house, right from my bed I drove into Amherst, not even knowing where I was going. I pulled into Amherst College, thinking I’d go to the Campus Center and sit by a fireplace, but it was closed. I saw students going to another building, (Valentine Commons), so I followed. I felt so powerless, lost, confused, cold. The woman checking students in knew me, (she lives on my street), and let me get coffee and scrambled eggs, and would not take $.  I devoured the coffee and breakfast like a hunter eats. Three students sat near me. We smiled. I said, ‘good morning.’  I had not slept, and my hair must have been sticking out on one side, but I am around students all the time so felt perfectly comfortable asking, “Do you know if the gym is allowing community members to shower?” (I wanted a hot shower even more than I wanted food). The three girls looked at each other, got up and moved to another table. I think they thought I was homeless, and really, I was, and had a first class experience of what it would be like to not have a home, to have to ask for something like that, something that basic. I was still shivering, could not warm up, and then was misunderstood. I worried about the homeless people I have come to know at the Survival Center whom I visit. It becomes all too easy to just step over the line and be there, even with a phd, (in one case).
Friends’ got their electricity three towns over, so I had places to go, and chose the home of the friends who said, “We want you to come. It will be like our usual social dinners, and you will be warm and fed and take a shower and sleep well.” They let me bring Ruby.

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