Gratitude Renewal

Winter arrived in full force last Friday. The snow started falling just before I left for work that morning, and it just didn’t stop. I asked the school attendance secretary if she thought we might have an early release that day. She responded kindly yet doubtfully, telling me that it had only happened once in her tenure at the school. Clearly, these northeastern Washington folks are much heartier than the people in the Seattle area. We seemed to close schools as soon as two flakes fell. (There are two understandable reasons for that though: lack of snow plows and numerous hills.)

School did indeed remain open until 2:50, and I walked out to see several inches of snow piled up on my car. Thankfully, a year in Montana prepared me well for these occasions. I no longer cringe at the idea of driving in the snow, and I now keep one of those long-handled snow brush/ice scraper devices in my car, along with emergency supplies. All-wheel drive and snow tires are confidence boosters, too. The 2018 version of me would have been a nervous wreck anticipating the drive home, but the calm and confident 2020 version was worry free.

The snow was forecasted to continue over the weekend, which was just fine with me. I had been anxiously awaiting an opportunity to practice one of my favorite winter hobbies: creating my own cross-country ski course. Last year, I did it on the golf course behind my house. This year, I am living on an orchard. When I signed the lease in September, I asked the landlady if I could make a ski course when enough snow fell. I think she thought I was a little goofy, but she smiled and said, “Of course!”

After arriving home Friday afternoon, I hurriedly strapped on my snowshoes to pat down a route. I needed to get a path started before dark. Quite a bit of grass was poking through, but a couple more inches would be plenty to create some smooth tracks. I guess it just comes from my need to create and my love of pure, white snow. Then there is that sweet swoosh of cross-country skis. It really is my Zen time. Being out on the snow is absolute bliss for me.

I had been recovering from a cold, but I got out on my private course for an hour or so on both Saturday and Sunday. I had thought about heading up to the mountain for the other kind of skiing on Sunday, but there was yet another winter weather advisory for Sunday afternoon. I figured I might regret the two-hour roundtrip drive if I got stuck in a blizzard. I think I made the right decision.

At some point on Sunday night the temperature rose to around freezing, and heavy flakes began to fall. Then I heard a loud “crack” around nine. I looked outside and didn’t see anything, but it was probably one of the trees in the orchard, or at least a very big branch. I took at look out at my porch. I had shoveled at five, and it was time to do it again.

I went to bed around ten, happily thinking about sleeping in, glad that I was inside in my cozy bed. I had a couple of doctor appointments scheduled for Monday which meant a glorious planned sick day.

I woke up in the morning around 7:30, walked in the bathroom to turn on the lights, and nothing! The power was out. Ugh. So much for my leisurely morning at home. This house is all-electric. That means the pump for the well doesn’t even work when the power’s out. Yup. Just a dribble of water came out of the tap. Flush the toilet, and not much comes back. A shower was out of the question. There is no fireplace; no gas or propane stove. Do I have a generator? Of course not. Fortunately, the house was only cool, and not unreasonably cold yet.

That began to change as the morning progressed. I left the chilly house in time to get a warm beverage before my first appointment. Then, after my second appointment, I went to the Mexican restaurant in town for a late lunch. At least I could enjoy the warmth and satisfaction of a hot meal.

I checked the electric company site on my phone and saw that my power was still out. I couldn’t quite fend off the anxiety that was stirring inside with the thought of entering the cold and almost dark house.

When I opened the door, the familiar whoosh of warm air was absent. It was a particularly cold day; I think we hit a low of nine degrees, and it was a bit windy to boot. I checked my phone again. The online report said that they expected to restore power in my area by 11:00 PM; I wasn’t going to be able to handle that. These are the times when it is particularly hard to be away from family and close friends. I initially thought that maybe I should tough it out.

Fortunately, I do have friends here, though. And without hesitation, they invited me to stay the night. When I arrived at their house, I was surprised that the day had completely exhausted me. Just the thought of sleeping in the cold had caused me more stress than I had realized. As we sat and watched a program on Netflix, I was continually yawning. I could have gone to bed by eight.

Thankfully, my power was restored late this morning. The whole incident was just a tiny disruption in my life, but it was an invaluable lesson in gratitude. For the past several weeks, I have been consciously practicing gratitude every morning, stopping to think about those things, big and small, for which I am grateful. It’s funny that hot water is often one of them, and so is hot food. The past couple of days have made me stop and think of those living in poverty who don’t have their basic needs met on a daily basis. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be homeless in the winter. I’m able to go outside and play in the snow, knowing that I can come inside for a hot shower, bath, or cup of tea. And if I am feeling alone in the cold, friends will be there, graciously offering some help. I guess we all need reminders to keep it in perspective.

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