Sunday, January 31, 2010

After the Power Outage.....

Waking up in the middle of night to the sounds of silence and total darkness were my first instinctual indications there was no power. And the this house, it is always about the cold. The weight of the world, or at least the weight of 2" of ice followed by 4" of snow, was more than the power lines could they politely and quickly surrendered.

The ever present hum of the industrial-size heating and air conditioning unit outside my bedroom window was silent. The sounds were missing of the old chicken trucks, grinding their gears as they make their way through the mountain carrying the catchers to their jobs or carrying their catch of the night back to the processing plant. The only sound I heard was the snoring of my overweight Labrador sleeping next to my bed.

I got up to peek out the window and saw nothing but the blackness of a moonless night enveloping everything I had hope to see. And then, despite my flannel pajamas and heavy wool socks, I was shocked into an alertness rarely achieved past midnight by the temperature inside the house, which was below the normal 64 degrees this old house maintains throughout the winter. After calling to report the outage, it was evident the warmest place in the house was under the mound of covers on my bed with Bob the Beagle as my energy-efficient heating pad.

Daylight proved to be the perfect alarm clock. I understand completely the old farmer's philosophy of rising with the sun and going to bed when it sets. There are only so many hours of daylight and like the old farmers, I had many chores to do.

The power had been out long enough that the temperature in the house was colder than the temperature in both refrigerators. So I took all of the perishable food and placed it in baskets outside on the upper deck in the snow.

After warm cans of food heated in the downstairs fireplace, I let the outside dogs run in the snow. We walked the perimeter of the property and down the slick ice/snow covered road, looking for downed trees and power lines. Maggie, the hunter, went out on her own, much deeper into the woods, and soon sent out the battle cry for help from her brothers and sisters in arms. But their agenda was to return as quickly as possible to the blankets inside their houses and dream the special dreams that only dogs know about. So Maggie hunted alone until late in the afternoon, nose to the ground, following each set of tiny footprints through the snow. She came back with nothing, but I doubt that was ever the point.

The thoughts you have when there are no lights, heat, water or electricity are not the same thoughts you have when the news is always running somewhere in the background, or you are a keystroke away from verifying or disqualifying any idea that pops into your head. Or when you chat throughout the day with friends scattered about the country, living different, but similiar lives, and sharing it all together.

During these days, I thought a lot about Mrs. Rogers, my high school English teacher, who bored us to death with endless reading and analyzing of John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snowbound". The poem makes more sense now.

With no access to music, in my mind I played and replayed Justin Timberlake's version of the hauntingly beautiful Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah", over and over, and it brought me peace each time.

I thought about the message in the old play "Our Town" live every moment of every day and to connect with that small group of people who have special meaning in your life. No matter how many times we have seen that play, do we ever really "get it"?

After I finished all of my chores and could no longer find meaningful work to do, I read, A LOT. I read in the daylight and when darkness fell, I read by the light of an old oil lamp. I went through the stack of new books by my bed as I came to them. Unfortunately, the book that I came to after dark was James Patterson's new offering, "I, Alex Cross", about a murderer deep in the rural woods who put the bodies of his victims through an industrial-size wood chipper. Probably not the best choice for a female, alone in the rural woods with no power!

But, I must confess, it wasn't all primitive "roughing it". I did have my Blackberry. While trying to be cognisant of my battery life, I did text and communicate with friends and my husband, who by the way, was enjoying the sun and warm weather of Los Angeles and Las Vegas.....for WORK, of course. My dear friends, who kept offering, sometimes insisting, that I let them attempt the impossible and risk their lives to come and get me. Even though on two different occasions, I was called "stubborn" (and probably worse behind my back!), they did understand my reluctance to leave my house and my dogs.

As the days get longer and the temperature begins to rise, I am sure I will look back on my days on the mountain when the power went out with a little more nostalgia and romance than there probably was while I was actually living it. After all, it has only been a day, and I am already doing it.

But then.......isn't that what we all do with the events of our lives? If only it was all as good as it is in our memories. Turns out, dogs aren't the only ones who dream special dreams!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow...And No Power

The power has been out here since about 11:00pm Friday. The combination of 2" of ice one day followed by almost 4" of snow the next proved just a little too much for the above-ground power lines we have here.

The temperature outside on Saturday morning loomed in the low 20s. After about 12 hours of no heat inside, the temperature dipped below 50. But a fire in the downstairs fireplace made it manageable....if we (Bob the Beagle, Amber the Chocolate Lab and I) didn't stray very far.

My upstairs deck..........beautiful, perfectly formed icicles almost touching the snow drifts.

A view of a snow-covered Danville from my porch on Saturday morning.

The snow in our yard Saturday morning, disturbed only by a curious dog's footprints.

Our driveway, covered in snow over a layer of ice.

To all of the wonderful friends who offered, some insisting, that I let you come and get me, this might better explain why I couldn't let you risk the steep drive. And to those same friends, thank you for understanding that I really couldn't leave my house or my dogs alone under these circumstances.

As you can see, the power lines were weighted down, dangerously low with ice.

This is truly beautiful, isn't it?

Not having television, or computers, or heat, or electricity, or running water (we have a well - power goes out, so does the water!), Bob didn't seem too affected by it all. This is one cool fellow!
Looks pretty good in his fleece hoodie, don't you think?

The power came back on about 8:00pm Saturday evening. So life is returning to normal on top of the mountain..........heating the house back up may take a little more time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

...And Now We Have Snow......

Afternoon on the Mountain...No Snow, Just Ice! 1.29.10

The burden of ice.

Two icy paths.

Old trees covered in ice.

The ice, from the dog rock's perspective.

A slippery slope.

Birdseed on ice!

Scenes on the Mountain, Early Friday Morning, 1.29.10

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Games Children Play

The morning after I returned from New York, I made my weekly trip to my dad's farm to feed his cats. As I was walking back to my car, I saw this odd, but rather mesmerizing "buzzard convention". And they seemed rather proud that I wanted to take their photograph, puffing their chests out and opening their beaks as if to say, "We are mighty in groups and you should respect us". I am not sure their confident posturing factors in the actuality their whole lives exist on disposing of roadkill.
But I never see a buzzard without thinking of of a game my sister and I played in the 1950s as young children in the backyard of our little house. It was a time when your mother shooed you out the door and told you to "Play outside!" anytime the temperatures were above 50. There weren't a lot of toys so your quality of entertainment was directly related to your level of creative imagination.
Because our house at the end of Main Street was bordered on two sides by very large pastures and fields, we often saw buzzards floating above, surveying the area for less fortunate or vulnerable animals.
For some odd reason, my sister and I were fascinated by these elegant shiny black birds with the menacing eyes. We had seen them swoop down and take off with parts of dead animals many times, and we began to fantasize about how much fun it would be to fly with them.
So, our favorite activity that summer was to go outside, lie in a wide open space, and pretend to be dead! We would lay there for what seemed to be hours, whispering, or peeking out with one eye, hoping to fool the buzzards into thinking we were candidates for a trip through the air back to their home.
Our mother would come outside and ask what we were doing andwalk off, shaking her head when we tried to explain. Why she had more children after the two of us proved to have such questionable judgement, has always been a mystery.
Obviously, the wise old buzzards never came for us and by autum, we grew tired of this exercise in futility.
That sense of adventure and daring has long gone and been replaced with practically and caution......and age. But the experience has always been filed away in this old mind, brought back anew, whenever I see a buzzard!

All in a Day's Work

Despite consecutive days of single-digit temperatures, snow and ice covering the ground, and most of us hunkered down into "survival mode", some of the inhabitants of the mountain go about their business as though it were a bright spring day. This woodpecker and two of his family clocked in for a full workday yesterday and I hope they reaped the fruits of their labor. A perfect example of someone who DOES deserve a performance bonus!

Growing up watching Woody Woodpecker, I always thought these guys were bigger than they really are. But then, I guess they really don't talk or manipulate the behavior of humans either.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Week in New York City

Last July, without my having any idea, Dennis planned a Christmas/New Year's Eve/Birthday surprise for me. He booked first class plane tickets, bought tickets to three Broadway shows and reserved a room for seven nights overlooking Times Square in our favorite hotel . The plan remained a secret until mid-November when American Express accidentally sent an e-mail to my address, confirming a gift certificate he had purchased for me at Bergdorf Goodman! The look on his face as we were driving in the car when I read the confirmation was priceless.

So, on December 28, off we go to New York City to join the million-plus other tourists (we have learned New Yorkers do not go to Times Square on New Years Eve) to say goodbye to 2009 and welcome in the new year. And despite single digit temperatures and 35mph winds, we felt so fortunate to have crossed yet another experience off of our "Bucket List".

My nephew Cody was home from Los Angeles for the holidays and thought a New Year's Eve trip to New York City (as he called it ("NYE in NYC") was the perfect opportunity for him to visit friends there and make a dent in his bucket list also, so he flew up and joined us for a few days.

To me, besides the cultural opportunities, some of the best things about New York City are the restaurants, the Broadway shows and the shopping, and we spent as much time doing all three as possible. Our friend Al got us into his favorite Italian restaurant, our friend Leonard got us into his favorite French restaurant and the other wonderful places, we found on our own. We saw three amazing shows: the revival of "Hair", "Superior Donuts" and the new musical "Memphis". "Hair" was a bit more raunchy than I remember the original version from 1967, and like the original, there is a brief scene in the first act where the entire cast is nude. "Superior Donuts" was a touching story about the human condition adapting to change. But my very favorite show was "Memphis", which is perhaps the best Broadway show I have ever seen. The cast, stage sets and costumes were amazing, the music was contagious and the story is one that will move anyone who sees it.

Despite walking blocks and blocks every day we were in the city, eating out three meals a day took a toll on our already out-of-shape frames. And the numerous snowfalls and breathtaking winds made us a little homesick for the milder weather conditions at our Arkansas home on the mountain. So, it was a little ironic when we returned home and turned onto our driveway on January 4th and found it covered with snow and ice! A very poetic way to end the week, don't you think?

Happy New Year to all.

One of the Christmas Trees at the Marriott Marquis. We are on our way to dinner and a play.

Our nephew, Cody Alford, on New Year's Day in NYC.

Betty and Dennis having dinner at a wonderful French restaurant with our friend, Leonard Jacobs, Fox News panelist, theater critic and popular liberal blogger (

A carriage in Central Park on a snowy afternoon.

Central Park on New Year's day, 2010.

Dennis and Cody at Columbus Circle.

Dennis and Cody on Time's Square during one of the four snowfalls during our visit to NYC. But the snow doesn't faze New Yorkers...they walk everywhere!

The ice rink at Rockefeller Center. The line was over a block long with people and their skates, waiting for a turn on the ice

Cody, Betty & Dennis, taking a break from shopping to have lunch in the restaurant at Macy's.

Cody, Betty and Dennis at the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.

Dennis, Betty, Jules, Junior and Cody on the afternoon of January 1, 2010 at an Italian restaurant

Dennis and Betty, walking in Central Park.

Cody - 3:00pm on Times Square, New Year's Eve as it began to snow

The road to our house as we found it when we returned January 4.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year's Eve on Times Square in NYC

There is so much about New Year's Eve on Times Square that isn't shown on television. The pictures in this post will give you a peek at the festivities from eye-level in the street and from the window in our room on the 31st floor of the Marriott Marquis.
The picture above was taken at 3:30pm, New Year's Eve as people begin to fill the Square. They maintained these spots until well after midnight.

People making their way to a coveted position...only 8 hours to go before midnight!

By 4:00pm on New Year's Eve, it was impossible to walk down Broadway on Times Square. It was very cold with high winds. Also, early in the evening, it began to snow.

Taken from our hotel window, about 8:00pm, New Year's Eve.

Jennifer Lopez performing on Times Square.

The ball was placed into position high above Times Square at 6:00pm.

Fireworks at midnight as the ball was about to touch down.

Midnight, 2010. Confetti falling and fireworks.

The colors from the residue of the fireworks were spectacular!

The smoke from the fireworks gave the area a mystical, almost magical aura.

...and this was the conclusion.
Hope 2010 is the best year yet for each of you!