I used to crochet quite a bit. When my daughters were small, they always had hand-made hats and slippers. I crocheted a beautiful, lacy dress for Jennifer, when she was two. It was passed down to her little sister, Kate, and then to their much younger cousin, Veronica, before it found a final resting place on one of Veronica’s large dolls. I made child-sized ponchos for my girls, back in the 1980s, when ponchos were popular. I made crocheted Christmas stockings, ornaments, stuffed animals, puppets and other toys. I made lots of small rugs out of scraps and leftover yarns. I started dozens of afghans, but only finished a few of them.
Several years ago, I took up crocheting again. I had agreed to feed my neighbor’s horses while she was away over a wintry Thanksgiving holiday. It was a miserable, cold job! One day, I got back to my house, freezing, and dismantled an old crocheted rug to make myself a warm hat. I worked it the same way I had done hats for my small daughters, with ear flaps and an under-the-chin tie to keep it secure. With four strands of vari-colored yarns. It was ugly, but warm. I wore it off and on all winter and, surprisingly, people loved it. I got requests! I was given mounds of yarn ends and pieces to keep me going. By the following winter, I had made more than a hundred crocheted hats, to give as gifts, and to sell at the Christmas bazaar. Then, I put the materials away again. Other than an occasional small project, my yarns and hooks were unused, stowed away in an upstairs room.
This year, with my new neighbors expecting their first baby, I made an afghan for an infant.
Then, inspired, and with quite a bit of yarn leftover, I made a scarf. Then another…and another.
Then, a pair of slippers out of the last remnants of baby yarn.
And then a few more pairs of slippers.
Finally, an afghan. Worked with a large hook and many strands of yarn, it is colorful and warm. I’ll have it finished in time to send it out for Christmas. I have yarn enough for another, but haven’t decided yet if I have the stamina to continue at this time. I tend to work in fits and starts. I feel like I have to set other things aside when I have a big project going. I want to have time, this winter, to work in my studio. I want time for pots of soup and baked goods, too. Still, crochet is a nice hobby for cold winter evenings. I’ll just have to see how it fits into my free time this coming season.
I had just finished writing about adjusting, and some of the things I was having to adjust to, due to weather, age, and other factors. I realized, then, that I had forgotten to write about the time change. Daylight Savings Time, which caused me to have to set my clocks back an hour two weeks ago, was my main inspiration for writing about adjusting!
The dogs don’t understand a time change. No matter what the clock says, they want their dinner at the usual time, which is now an hour earlier than it has been since March. By the time the clock says it’s time for me to feed them, they are languishing around their food dishes as if they think I’m intending to starve them.
We lose a lot of daylight in this northern hemisphere, as winter approaches and the days get shorter. I’m not sure how the time change helps. Maybe nothing will fix that, in November and December. Perhaps it’s not even designed to help. I think in the fall, we change our clocks to go back to “real time,” and it is in the spring that the time changes to the artificial Daylight Savings Time. In any case, it always throws me off. So, that was what had caused all the thoughts about adjusting, and then I forgot to even mention it! I was just about to do an edit, to put in a few sentences, at least, to complain about how it gets dark practically in the middle of the afternoon, and how I’ve had to change my schedule to make up for it. A phone call interrupted those plans.
On the telephone was my friend, Darrell, who I have known since he was twelve years old. I knew him first through his mother, and I always liked him, though we were not always friends. His Mom was my friend. From her, I learned of Darrell’s teen-aged exploits, his disagreements with his brother, and his fights with his Dad. I watched him grow up, settle down, and raise a family. We – from long acquaintance, shared history, and mutual close connections – became friends. He was calling to tell me that his Mom, my dear friend, Chris, had passed away.
I first met Chris in 1978, when we worked together at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant. We were both new residents to Beaver Island. I loved being here; Chris did not. Moving to this remote island had been her husband’s idea and, like almost anything he suggested, she went along with it. She was unhappy, home-sick, and lonesome for her family back in Wisconsin. Her two sons were nine and twelve; my daughters were three and six years old. We didn’t have a lot in common, but developed a friendship, nonetheless.
We worked well together as breakfast servers at the restaurant, leaning on each other through mad rushes and difficult customers. We had family dinners together outside of work. From griping about our bosses, complaining about our husbands or sharing stories about our children, we always found plenty to talk about. By the end of that first year, Chris and I were lifelong friends.
Chris and her family moved off the island, then came back. Many times. Though she hated Beaver Island that first year, she grew to love it, and always missed it when she was away. I moved away, too, for various reasons over the years, though my heart was always here. Telephone lines and letters kept us connected through all the years, wherever we were. Whenever we found ourselves both on Beaver Island, we’d get together for coffee, and chat like the old friends we were, as if no time at all had passed between visits.
There was a running joke between us. Chris had a hard life, and she often seemed sad, or downcast. Sometimes she vented to me about her troubles; other times it was me complaining about whatever was going on in my life. No matter what, though, her tagline was always, “It’s all gonna work out.” I would tease her about it. “When?” I’d ask, “I’ve been hearing that for twenty years, Chris, when are things gonna work out??” She’d giggle at that, but she never gave up her insistence that everything would get better, in the end.
Now, all the changes that seemed so daunting pale in comparison. Now, I’m having to adjust to a world that doesn’t include my friend. Dear Chris, I hope, with all my heart, that everything has worked out for the best, for you!
What, for heaven’s sake, do I have to adjust to? Plenty, I guess. Lately, “adjusting to change” feels like the theme that directs my days!
After nearly a year in my new job at the Beaver Island Community Center, I am still in the adjustment phase. I continue to grumble about the change in my schedule. At my last job, I worked from early morning to mid-afternoon (8AM to 4PM). Now, most days I start around noon, and work until 7PM. It’s not like I’ve been put on a night shift! Nevertheless, it’s a change that causes necessary alterations in my eating, dog-walking and sleeping schedule, and I’m still getting used to it. It’s also a continuing and joyful surprise to come in to such a pleasant workplace, with an always kind and supportive staff.
As I age, I continually have to adjust to changes in my abilities. I keep a magnifying glass always nearby these days, for when my bifocals are not enough. I depend heavily on my daily calendar and various other lists and notes, for lapses in my memory. I’ve learned to use walls, chairs and counters to assist with everyday activities, when my body fails to move or flex as I would like. Maybe my sense of smell is improving to make up for other losses, though. I got a bag of shredded soap “milk bath,” and put it on the stand in the bathroom, until I could get a decorative jar to put it in. Every time I walked into that room, I’d see that clear bag and think, “what is macaroni doing in the bathroom?” Then I’d catch a whiff of lavender-almond, and remember that it was shredded soap, not pasta.
After seventy years on this planet, it seems that I’d be used to the change of seasons. Not yet! This fall, I again walked in wonder through the beautiful colors, as if I’d never seen them before. I snapped hundreds of pictures, to add to the thousands I’ve taken in previous years, documenting every aspect of the metamorphosis of grasses and leaves. And, after more than seven decades in this climate, the first big snow always surprises me. As if, this once, winter weather would not come. It brings a sense of awe, at the stunning changed landscape. It brings memories of other winters, and it puts me right in the Christmas spirit. That is combined, always, with a feeling of dread, and a little fear.
Keeping the house warm is a big challenge in the winter, and includes the added expense of fuel to keep the heater going. The driveway needs to be plowed. Pathways have to be shoveled. Driving – and even walking – can be difficult when the road conditions include snow and ice. But, I adjust. I’ve brought my winter boots out of storage. I found the cleats that fit onto the soles, to make slipping less likely. I brought my warm parka and my knit cap with earmuffs out of the depths of the closet. And I think, how wonderful it is, that after all this time, there are still surprises in store for me, even if they force me to adjust!
Today is election day, and there are plenty of important issues on the ballot. If I were a better person, perhaps my title, “Without Power,” would be in reference to our privilege, in this country, of having a voice about the people and ideas that hold sway. This essay would be about the importance of each of us asserting our own values and priorities, with the power of our vote.
Alas, I am not that good. Instead, my sole purpose of writing today is to grumble and moan about a power outage that was a big inconvenience to me. I wasn’t the only one affected. All of Beaver Island was without power for a while, and even that was a part of a larger outage caused by storms that swept through Michigan on Saturday. But, true to form, I am talking mostly about myself. Saturday evening was when it began,
I spoke on the phone to a friend on the other side of the state. “The sky looks really weird,” she told me, and asked if we were expecting bad weather. It had started raining here on Friday, and continued off and on, but I didn’t anticipate any major storms. The forecasts that I’d heard talked mostly about marine conditions. Since I had no plans to be out on the water, I paid little attention. I was not concerned.
I’d had dinner: baked chicken with cauliflower, and my dishes were stacked in the sink. I warmed fresh apple cider, added a cinnamon stick, and sat down to read. The wind was picking up, but I was cozy indoors. The lights flickered, then went out, then came back on again. I lit a few candles, and went back to my book.
Shortly after eight PM, the power went out again. This time, it didn’t come back on. This isn’t unusual. We have lots of trees in close proximity to electrical lines. Our beech trees are dying, and come down easily in any wind. Great Lakes Energy, the cooperative that provides the electrical service here on Beaver Island, has a full time employee here, and he works hard to keep us all going. Outages are usually a few hours at most. Inconvenient, but not impossible. A few things happened to complicate the issue this time.
First, our full-time electrical service guy was not on the island; he was with family on the mainland, due to the death of his grandmother. Two other employees were sent over to replace him. However, as I understand it, the corporation decided to pull them off the island on Saturday. Maybe because they didn’t think the storm would be so bad; maybe they thought their presence elsewhere was more crucial; maybe they didn’t want to spring for hotel rooms for them here. I don’t know.
Second, the island was assailed with strong winds (50mph) for many hours. The main pole that brings electricity to the island was knocked out. Several other lines were down, around the island. There were difficulties with our back-up generators. And, we had to wait for the sun to come up on Sunday before it would be possible to get a crew back here to work on it! So, for many reasons, this was an unusual and extreme outage.
Without electricity, I have no internet service. I never have cell phone service at my house. When the lights go out, I unplug my cordless phone (which depends on electricity), and plug in an ancient, large, ugly beige, corded telephone. On Sunday morning, that worked. I called the toll-free number to report the outage. I listened to the recorded message telling me that over 17,000 customers were without power, and that they were working on it, and that if it wasn’t resolved by 10PM, I should seek shelter elsewhere. By Sunday evening, even my corded phone had gone dead. Evidently, when the power is out, even corded phones depend on batteries, and our island telephone company doesn’t have enough battery back-up to keep all of us going.
With consideration to my two dogs, and the knowledge that likely everyone on the island was in the same predicament, I did not seek shelter elsewhere. Still, by Monday morning, I was anxious to find out what was going on! So, I drove to town. I enjoyed the first cup of coffee I’d had in over 24 hours, got the rundown on what had happened, and received the good news that those of us who still were without power could expect relief by that night. Which it was!
I was one of the twenty-five households here that were without power the longest, about 53 hours. As I was able to get back on-line, I saw many offers of help from those islanders whose power was restored earlier. “If you need water, or a meal, or a warm place to sleep…” was a common refrain. One friend sent me a message, telling me she wasn’t at home, but the generator was working, and I was welcome to go there. A volunteer at the Community Center made big batches of soup and chili, and put the word out that anyone could come there for a hot meal.
Now that it’s over, I guess it wasn’t so bad. It could have been better, though. I could have had kettles and buckets filled with water, for when the faucets ran dry. I should have made sure my tablet was fully charged, and that extra books were downloaded, so that when, in my boredom, I blasted through the last pages of three titles, I’d have another to turn to. I should have checked that batteries were handy for flashlights and lanterns. The next time I hear mention of a “weird sky” or a storm coming through. I’ll pay attention!