We’ve had eleven feet of snow here in Eastport over the past few weeks, and things have been going along pretty much as you’d expect. Every vehicle with a plow on the front or a bed in the back has been put to work moving the stuff at least enough so that people can get in and out of their houses, have fuel delivered, and make some reasonable attempt to go about daily life. But dear heaven, folks are getting tired. Everyone’s shoulders and elbows are stiff and tender, their feet all roughed up by their boots and their faces reddened from cold. Which did I mention it has also been the coldest time, too? Getting those fuel deliveries is no joke. One blessing is that the power has stayed on except for one three-house period, about which I will have more to say later.
On the plus side, the plow operators are making money. Gasoline prices weren’t so high that they ate up all the profits, either, and that’s a big deal around here. When you buy one of those things you make a sizable investment, hoping to make it pay off, and a snowy winter can mean you don’t have to take the payments out of the household budget, or worse. What we haven’t seen much of is snow shoveling businesses springing up. People who do their own get to it pretty quick, and an organized army of volunteers had done a lot of the rest, descending with shovels and a front-loader upon the front walks and driveways in Eastport.
In nearly twenty years we’d never had a frozen pipe, but when the power did go off it was windy and frigid outside, so a (to put it kindly) somewhat less than well-insulated radiator pipe froze. (This is, after all, a Very Old House.) We tried our best to thaw it with a hair dryer, late at night while crouched in the horrid, cobwebby crawlspace under the ell. But no luck, so we thought about how much fun a burst pipe was going to be in the morning, then called the plumber at the earliest hour we thought was even halfway decent once the sun rose. Meanwhile of course with no heat in the ell, more and more of the pipe was freezing. But…!
The woman who answered the phone was calm and pleasant. She said they’d have someone over right away, and they did. He said he would not use a (gasp!) blowtorch near any wood. (This Old House is so old and dry, you could light it up with a match.) And although it took awhile, when he was done not only was the heat back on in the ell, the house was not on fire! And I don’t know about you but in my opinion, both those things being true at one time is pretty darned pleasant, especially after a night of worrying about a flood that (a) can’t be turned off without also turning off ALL the heat in the house, and (b) freezes instantly.
Meanwhile I have finished a book, and if you have ever done so you know the mixture of elation and utter, wrenching discombobulation that doing this can cause. A couple of days ago I was fully engaged in an all-consuming activity, cursing loudly and fluently while wrestling some stubborn plot detail to the mat (global search and replace, anyone?). And now it’s…gone!
So I did something revolutionary. I…I read a book. A whole one, all the way through, and while I read it I did not think about my own book AT ALL. I read it in a couple of huge, obsessive gulps, the way I used to do when I was a kid and you could stand right there and talk to me and I wouldn’t hear you, I was so absorbed. (And have we had enough of the first person singular, now?) Anyway, it was such a treat. The book may or may not have been good. I couldn’t tell you. I do know the ending came out of left field, in my opinion. If you’re going to shoot off a shotgun and have it malfunction in the final scene you’d better do more than hint about it being broken early on in the book, it seems to me. But no matter. The pleasure of reading that way at all is something I can’t achieve while I’m writing, and besides being fun it was also a great reminder of why we do what we do. It’s so other people can have that fun, too.