I don’t mean to be tedious, but our serial snowstorms last weekend found me feeling, once again, so grateful. Unlike many rural Mainers, Douglas and I live in a warm, weather-tight house within just a few miles of critical conveniences like a grocery store, a gas station and an ambulance service. We have caring neighbors and a handsome old cook stove in the kitchen that burns wood and can keep the house warm for several days if the furnace goes out. The basement is loaded with the dry apple, maple and other firewood we stashed in there last fall. We’re generally well provisioned with necessities like flashlight batteries, canned tuna and dog chow.
So, when a storm threatens, we know enough to hunker down and stay put. Hunkering down is a special privilege reserved for people who live in snowy climates like this. It means you’ve done what you can to prepare for what the weather may bring, and you’re ready to wait it out and deal with the aftermath. It’s not a solution for forest-fire country, the hurricane belt or tsunami-prone coastal areas, where evacuation is often the only good choice. But for blizzards — increasingly rare in coastal Maine, sadly — hunkering down is a sweet option.
It’s a good approach to life, too, come to think of it — settling in with someone you love, with the things you need, ready for an adventure and trusting that the two of you will work through whatever comes your way.
That doesn’t mean we don’t make some preparations when a storm threatens. A surprise nor’easter on Nov. 2, 2014, knocked out our electricity, phone and internet service for several days and really caught us off guard. We struggled then to keep the house warm, the toilets flushed and the summer raspberries from thawing in the freezer. That experience made us realize that complacency is not our friend.
So this past Saturday afternoon, as the first round of snow was falling and the blizzard predictions for Sunday and Monday grew more dire, with Douglas away at a theater rehearsal, I was busy at home.
First, I checked the three big, glass water jars in the cellar to be sure they were full. I knew they had been emptied, washed and refilled just a couple of months ago. Not the finest drinking water, perhaps, but safe enough for cooking and making coffee in a pinch.
Next, I made certain we had ground coffee in a can. After the surprise 2014 storm, we were reduced to grinding beans by hand in a charmingly folkloric but quite useless antique mill that Douglas had picked up in a junk shop in Hungary. Never again.
Then I filled one big soup pot and the tea kettle with fresh water for drinking and cooking, and two plastic buckets with water for flushing the toilets. Douglas and I have lived together since April 2013 and have few illusions about each other’s bodily functions. Still, sometimes you just need to flush.
I plugged in my iPhone and my old laptop computer to charge them up. My ability to work from home productively during a power outage depends on these technologies. Plus, it’s important to be able to check in on friends and neighbors, and to let others know we’re OK.
I rummaged in the flashlight drawer and found three working units. I stashed one on the windowsill by the back door for taking the dog out and checking the accumulation of snow. One on the edge of the wainscoting by the cellar stairwell for retrieving firewood and water. And one on the nightstand at my side of the bed because you never know.
We also keep a collection of candles, a couple of oil lamps and matches. Check, check, check.
Plenty of gas in the barn for the snow blower, which we would surely be needing, and for the small generator, which we bought after that traumatizing 2014 storm and have never fired up yet except to be sure we knew how. Two snow shovels at the ready, one in the front hallway and one just inside the barn door.
Making these small preparations gave me a nice sense of security and anticipation. I knew that my husband and I would enjoy the beauty and drama of the storm from the security of our home, and that we were prepared to deal with problems as they arose.
Douglas called on his way back from rehearsal to ask what he should pick up from the store. Bread, I said, and some cheese. Maybe some fish for dinner. When he arrived, he brought in these items and more, including some tiny, fresh-as-could-be smelts from a local river and a bottle of good Kentucky bourbon. Let the hunkering down begin.
Read more of Meg Haskell at livingitforward.bangordailynews.com