My Winter Solstice 2018
I had already written a piece for my blog about the darkness I had once experienced while working at Boeing. I would go to work in the dark, come home in the dark, spend nine or ten hours inside a factory office with only skylights illuminating the "city" inside the main factory, and I would often say that I never saw the light of day until the weekends rolled around!
That blog post was written before last Thursday, December 20th at 11:00 am when the windstorm hit, and the power went out. This affected the entirety of Western Washington from Bellingham to Olympia, and of course, Whidbey Island.
We used to have power outages whenever the slightest wind would gust, leaving the Island dark for a few hours to several days. That was 15-20 years ago, I explained to one of my newer neighbors whose expression of surprise and dismay immediately washed over her face. I told her that that hadn’t happened for years, and the energy company had buried some lines and took other measures to be sure the power outages were minimized on the Island.
Well, a few minutes ago, Sunday, December 23rd, almost 72 hours to the minute, our power came back on. My neighbor took a room at a local motel yesterday, frustrated by the lack of light and electricity, worried about her refrigerator/freezer and the potential for food spoilage.
Meanwhile, we went through the generator blues… We have an old generator that we bought nearly 20 years ago from a friend, which oddly enough had become our insurance policy against power outages. Up until that point, we had been experiencing outages every year during the fall/winter months on a regular basis. When we bought the generator, it seemed as though the outages had magically stopped. We didn’t use it again for a number of years because even when the wind did kick up and a tree or two had fallen on some power lines, our outages had been short, only lasting a few hours at the most.
This time, we decided to get that old generator started just before dark on Thursday afternoon (at about 4:18 pm). Remember, we were entering the Winter Solstice, a full moon, and a meteor shower – and I was about to publish my website honoring the Solstice.
We hooked up two refrigerator/freezers, a light and a television so we could check the news or watch a movie. We were also able to plug our phone chargers into the power strip, so we’d have some way to communicate. We were fine for the evening with our wood stove heating the main portion of the house and plenty of blankets on the bed.
The next day, Friday December 21st, we attempted to start that old generator and after about an hour of pulling the cord, the darned thing wouldn’t start. We decided to start calling around for a replacement knowing there’d be a run on them and we’d be hard pressed to find one. Well, we did! It had been a return to a store in Everett, so we secured it with a credit card. Now, my husband and I generally steer clear of “America” during the holidays due to traffic and frantic last-minute shoppers, but we were on a mission. The new unit was beautiful, and we were delighted to discover that we were paying half price for this very expensive unit! (clue?)
We made it home before dark that afternoon, put the unit in the garden shed behind the house and attempted to start it. Not only would it not start, but the pull came off and the oil looked like foaming milk! A neighbor came over and we were able to get the old generator up and running again right before dark!
On Saturday, we called the Oak Harbor store and told them what had happened. By this time, we had been out of power for 48 hours. We were told we could return the generator to the Whidbey store, so we loaded it up and away we went. Our old generator had started up again in the morning, so we were happy to get rid of this new one and get our money credited back to our account – just like it never happened.
We returned home around 3:00 and attempted to start the old generator… and nothing! How could this be happening?!! Perhaps it was the government shutdown that had just gone into effect in the early hours of the morning? Maybe the Winter Solstice? The full moon? The meteor showers? Everything seemed to be working against us! Finally, we were able to get that old machine up and running and we kept it going until midnight.
Again, it started right up on Sunday morning, and then the power came on! I first noticed the blinking lights of the digital clock on the hood above the stove. We couldn’t believe it! We started turning on lights and rejoicing at the idea of having hot showers as soon as the water heater would allow. Never say never, my husband reminded me of my conversation with the new neighbor when she asked how long she could expect her power to be out.
I immediately opened my laptop and began writing this blog, one of the final touches to the Winter Solstice Edition of my website, albeit a few days late. I thought about my self-imposed deadline over the last few days, and I quickly realized that I was more concerned about having a reliable generator and a shower than I was about missing the deadline. I guess I knew everyone would understand since they, too, were experiencing the same thing.
The one thing I must say… it was wonderful to see the neighborhood working to help each other out during this latest 72-hour inconvenience. In times of need, people tend to come together, especially on this Island, in community and in the truest sense of belonging.
Now the days are getting longer, one minute at a time, and I am thankful for the Winter Solstice...