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Year in Yosemite: Taken by Storm! - Explore

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Sierra Daily

01/26/2010

Year in Yosemite: Taken by Storm!

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This car took a hit in last week's snowstorm. Photos courtesy Jon Jay.

"If you're hungry, the salad is in the freezer and the pasta is on the porch." I don't write notes like this to my husband every day, but ever since a storm rolled into Yosemite four days ago, taking out the roads and electricity with it, I've taken to doing all kinds of things I never imagined.

When we knew the weather was turning bad, we took all the measures our neighbors had advised. My husband put our chains on, then backed our front-wheel drive car into the driveway and pulled the windshield wipers up to prevent them from freezing to the glass. I spent the morning cooking -- stews, soups, anything I could make in large batches and have on hand. I did the laundry so we'd have clean clothes. I filled a bin with water in case the pipes froze. I went to the library and picked up stacks of books. I recharged phones, batteries, and lanterns. Then I sat down to write this week's blog and get it off days early … just in case.

"Just in case" happened as I was typing the words "Every time it snows the electricity goes out …." At that exact second, my computer went down. The lights went out. The fan on the fireplace (the one that keeps the house warm and toasty) stopped. But I wasn't worried. The electricity usually comes back on in hours. Now it's been days.

The first night of living in the dark, my daughter and I read by candle and lantern while my husband did a jigsaw puzzle. The second night, my husband went to bed … at 6:30. On the third night, he took a bath (we still have propane) while once again my daughter and I hit the books. But it's getting old. For the first time since moving here, I'm restless and discontent.

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Downed tree and power lines.

The same could not be said of my family. The storm seems to have brought them into their own. The very second breakfast is over, our daughter puts on her ski clothes, then heads out the door to sled with her friends. This is then followed by lunch and a movie at the home of a neighbor who has both kids and a generator.

My husband (who normally hates snow and cold and has never really settled in here) has found his personal nirvana. Storms demand that one be helpful, and nothing on this planet makes him happier.

A little background here. My husband's family came to America with William Penn. They've been Quakers for more than four centuries. Although he doesn't practice, the Quaker way of life is so ingrained in his cells that he's really only happy when being useful. The storm has provided him ample opportunity to do just that. So he's been shoveling out people's cars, fixing generators, and once the roads out of the park were open again, accompanying those desperate to leave, just in case they need help getting out.

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Gotta shovel that deck!

Which leaves me. For whatever reason, the lack of electricity has left me feeling disoriented -- pulling my thoughts together seems beyond my control. It's not that I haven't been doing what I need to do to make the best of the situation. I've been out. I visit neighbors. I come to the school every day to charge our phones, check our email, and write (the school has a generator). I've been literally keeping the home fires burning and doing what we need to do to get by -- hence the salad in the freezer and most of our food in coolers on the porch. Tonight we're having game night at our house -- everyone's invited as long as they bring a lantern and something to eat.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I’m the one who spent 10 years traveling around the planet. I'm the one who loves the outdoors. I'm the one who moved here with nary a look back and not one moment's heartache for what was. Known among my friends for jumping without a net, I'm amazed to find myself flat on my back, looking up into snow-covered trees festooned with drooping electric lines and wondering how I got here.

And so I spend a lot of time wondering about the families who settled this area, most especially the women. How did they cope? Is it possible to cook a meal over an open fire wearing a floor-length skirt and not go up in flames? Did they grow weary of the darkness? The lack of neighbors? The brutal cold? Did financial necessity trump desires for comfort? If given the choice, would they do it all again?

Would I?

-- Jamie Simons

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