I sat on the bench near UMass-Dorchester on the Boston Harbor Trail and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face. We haven't seen or felt the sun for two week in New Jersey.
I also soaked up the normalcy of it all: people walking, laughing, biking, chatting; a jogging event was just getting started. Gone were harried faces of neighbors carrying gas cans and asking if we had any news.
Kathie and I left our home in New Jersey Friday morning and headed north to stay with our daughter in South Boston. We lost our electricity on Monday night at the height of the hurricane and had yet to get it back.
The storm hit us hard in Califon causing extensive wind damage. Several homes in town were crushed by trees and power lines were down everywhere. Fortunately, no one was injured in town, but a couple was killed in a neighboring community when they were crushed by a falling tree.
All Monday night the wind howled. Heavy gusts sounded like low flying jets as they roared overhead. I was awake most of the night fretting over the huge trees that frame my house. Fortunately, they and we were spared.
I guess one has to look at the good side, and Califon fared better this time than it did after Irene and Ivan both of which caused extensive flood damage. Apres storm, the river that flows through the town was still tucked safely in its banks. We are forty miles from the coast and did not experience the tidal surge which devastated the New York metro area and the Jersey shore. Wind was the engine of destruction this time and it was sobering to see trees, some as tall as a hundred feet, snapped like twigs.
On Tuesday, we settled into our life without electricity. We are getting used to this after the horrible storms we have had in the last several years, and have evolved a definite protocol. In the lead up to the blow, we had stocked up on canned goods, gassed both of the cars, and secured supplies of batteries, propane, fire wood, and lamp oil.
Unlike most of our neighbors, we don't gave a generator. After this storm, I still don't intend to buy one. Their lives seem to have become centered on acquiring gas to keep them going, driving up to fifty miles away to find a station that is open and then waiting in line to tank up.
We have no heat in the house and the temperature in the kitchen drops to around the mid-fifties in the evening. Our life centers on the living room and bedroom. We have a very efficient old fireplace in the living room built on the Count Rumsford model which throws enough heat to keep the temperature in the upper sixties. We have a goose down comforter on the bed which keeps us warm at night. Kerosene lamps and lanterns provide our lighting. I have grown attached to my head lamp which is great for finding my way around and terrific for reading.
We have been doing our cooking on our gas grill outside. Up until the time we left, we were living out of our freezer. We have learned to keep no more than a week's supply of meat in the freezer part of our refrigerator because that is the outer limit of how long it will stay safely edibile without power.
We have town water so we have been able to cook and bathe. Thank God, I have been able to make coffee. I put the kettle on the grill and use my French coffee press, so I can at least get my heart started in the morning.
The bathing thing is another issue. Kathie has gone to a neighbor's where they are heating their water with a generator. I have gone with the cold shower approach. It has worked pretty well and and I have managed to get clean the parts that George Carlin in one of his classic routines said we all focus on in the shower.
Our only contact with the outside world has been via our cell phones, neighborhood scuttlebutt, and our battery operated transistor radio. We made the mistake several years ago of getting rid of our "land line" and going with cable phone service. Our phones, therefore, go out when the cable goes. We have been able to charge our cell phones in the car. They are not smart phones, however, so we have no internet or email.
As I have previously mentioned, our house is close to two hundred years old and people have lived there for most of its time without electricity or central heat. We humans have lived "off the grid" for most of our history and there is something to be said for it.
On Thursday night, we invited another couple over for dinner. I had placed the remainder of our meat supplies in my charcoal smoker and had managed to cook up some very tasty pork tenderloin and barbecued chicken. Potatoes baked on the grill along with peppers and zucchini completed the menu.
We set the table up in the living room in front of the fire. We talked, laughed, ate and drank in the soft glow of the candles. It was a wonderful evening by any standards.
When we left for Boston the following morning, we had a hard time getting out to the interstate and had to re-route ourselves several time to get around tree blocked roads.
We has smooth sailing all the way to Boston. However, we had to drive almost two hours before we found gas stations without lines.
On Friday night, happy and warm at our daughter's house, we watched the NBC benefit concert for the storm victims It was our first look at the devastation in our home state. It was heartbreaking.
We are among the lucky ones.
We are going back home tomorrow because I am working at the election which will be going forward since a site with power to run the machines was found. The utility company is saying that it could be another full week before we get our power back.
A nor'easter is brewing and will probably hit us by mid-week with high winds and potential flooding.
Here we go again.