Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Still Standing

As you can see from Chris's previous post, our freak storm did an amazing amount of damage to almost every deciduous tree in the affected area. A few days after the actual storm, when we were all still without power, Chris realized that there was a city resident we needed to check on.

The 300 year old sycamore tree reputed to be Buffalo's oldest is still standing. The second picture was taken after the storm. The tree did lose branches, some of which apparently damaged a car or two, but the tree is still huge and healthy and standing. I would have been very sad if my neighborhood had lost this resident, and just think how the owners of that home behind it would feel if that huge tree demolished the house!

Most of the deaths attributed to the storm were traffic fatalities, because for the last week hundreds of traffic lights have been without power and therefore dark. I don't know if people forgot that a non-functioning traffic light is an all way stop, or if they just didn't care, but driving was pretty treacherous for a while, especially in the city. However, the round about that we usually refer to as the "wheel of death"? Well those things work just fine in a power out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Perfect Storm

This should've been posted right away, but there was no internet to be had for about a week around these parts. For those of you who don't live in Buffalo, or don't understand it's crazy weather - the following is what happens when Lake-generated snow squalls form when cold air, passing for long distances over the relatively warm waters of a large lake, picks up moisture and heat and is then forced to drop the moisture in the form of snow upon reaching the downwind shore. We like to call this delightful manna from heaven: "Lake Effect" snow.
Buffalo - Friday, October 13th: 6am

This is the view that greeted me when I stepped out of Erica's front door in the morning before work. I shoveled about 6ft of snow the approximate weight and consistency of mashed potatoes, and then realized I wasn't going anywhere. Even if I could've shoveled my car out, there was no way to get it down the street.

(Note the bike rack - insert laugh track here)

Buffalo - Friday, October 13th: 8am

As you can see here, the snow plows still never came, and the driveway and street are still buried. In this picture you can see an entire tree uprooted and lying across the driveway that leads to the parking lot of a large apartment building across the street. You'll notice in this picture as well as all the rest: the leaves are all still green! We didn't even have autumn yet. That is what made this storm so brutal - it hit so early in the autumn that all the added surface area from the leaves on each branch allowed the the heavy heavy snow to just clump on the leaves of the trees. Eventually the limbs or entire trees would just buckle & snap under the weight. Had the storm hit November 13th, there would likely have been no damage at all. In the evening on Thursday, when the storm had dumped a foot of snow, and was still falling: all you could hear was the loud crack of limbs breaking, followed by the whoosh of the snow laden branches crashing to the ground. About every 20 seconds you'd hear it, and with nobody out driving, and the snow absorbing much of the ambient noise of the city, it was pretty eerie. As it turned out, all those falling trees and limbs blocked roads and snapped power lines, causing nearly everyone to lose power. Something like 300,000 homes were without power.The snowfall in Buffalo was about 2 feet. Amherst had about 2.5 feet, and North Tonawanda had about a foot and a half.

Buffalo - Friday, October 13th: 4:30pm

So by 3:00 or so on Friday, less than 24 hours after the storm started: the snow had melted enough so that you could drive car down many of the streets. Unless they were blocked (see above).

North Tonawanda - Saturday, October 14th: noon

By Saturday in North Tonawanda, you could barely see any snow left on the ground. All the downed tree limbs heaped on the sides of the roads made NT look like the hedgerow country of WWII Normandy, bristling with Nazi machine gun nests! Man, I miss being a kid.

I think the area worst hit was Amherst. Most residents of NT had power restored by Sunday, 3 days after the storm. Much of Buffalo had power back by Monday or Tuesday, but most of Amherst didn’t get their electricity until the following weekend. I think by now ( 10-24) there are only a few hundred customers still without power.

Our family did pretty well during the storm. We have a fireplace which kept us warm, and a propane camping stove for cooking. Erica & Rusty came to stay with us for a few days, which was great. My parents realized that they sleep better when the house is slightly cooler. Our house is well insulated, so setting the thermostat to 68° means it’ll coast at 70°-72°. With a little inspiration from the storm, I convinced them to turn the thermostat to 65° to save some money and make things more comfortable.

As it turned out our family really enjoyed the time together around the fireplace. Who knows, maybe we’ll turn the heat down and do that every Sunday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The first time is important

When you're 22 and starting to date a guy you really like, there are some things to consider. You have to decide what you will and won't do with him, and after how many dates. Right away might put him off, but waiting for years until you've really fallen in love, taking the plunge, and having a terrible experience that makes you realize you're incompatible? Well that's a pain I didn't want, so I waited only a few dates before getting out my knitting in front of Chris. (What? What else would I be talking about?)

I knew it might be a little weird, or might freak him out, but I really liked him, and I needed to know right away if he was ok with my old lady hobby. We were in his bedroom at his parent's home, getting ready to watch a movie he'd been telling me about and wanted me to see. As he got the video tape set up (this was almost ten years ago, after all) I quietly got out the socks I was knitting for my Mom for Christmas. They were the Ukrainian socks from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks. In fact, that's the pair pictured on the front of the book.

Chris took one look at me knitting and excused himself (politely) from the room. I had no idea what was going on. Did he leave to laugh at me? To figure out how to get rid of me? To get his own knitting? I had no idea, and that made me nervous, so I kept knitting.

He finally returned with his mother in tow. He pointed at me and said to his mother with glee, "Mom, look what she's doing!" She looked pleased, and he was obviously happy about it, and I was confused, so I kept knitting.

They explained to me that his mother's mother (Grandma Sorri) was always knitting or crocheting, and had made a lot of the stuff around their house. I was in. I could keep dating him, could now allow myself to fall in love without reservation, and could bring my knitting along anywhere. The movie was good too.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

When the Yarn Breaks

When I learned how to spin, my teacher Louise did something I did not appreciate at the time. In the second or third class, after we had spent some time practicing the very basics of adding twist to fiber and could make a basic join if we had to, she made us intentionally break off our fiber supply from the forming yarn and then join back on again. We did this every yard or so for most of a bobbin. I remember feeling inexplicably resentful as I did this exercise, thinking that my teacher was wrecking a whole bobbin of my (free with very inexpensive class fee) yarn I was trying to make. I felt this way because up until that point I had dreaded having to join when the yarn broke or I got to the end of a length of roving. I knew that whenever I plyed my earliest spinning the singles tended to break at the joins I had made. So because I was not good at joins, and it was difficult for me to make a good join, up until that point I had avoided them as much as possible. Louise made me face them, and do them over and over, until I could make a good solid join that did not break. She also taught me that when I got a thin bit in the yarn I was spinning, which would most likely break at some later point because it was weaker than the yarn surrounding it, I could choose to break off my fiber supply and join just ahead of the thin bit, drafting back over it thus adding enough fiber to make it just as thick and strong as the rest of my yarn.

At the beginning of the two year "Crossways" bible class I recently completed, my teacher Sue told us that she had really been struck by a passage in a book by a Christian author she respected, in which he stated "Life is supposed to be hard" and the sooner you accept that the sooner you can properly cope with what life throws at you. I felt the same sort of indignant resentment I felt when Louise made me break off my yarn on purpose. Although I've always known that Sue is a very wise woman, I did not appreciate her words until fairly recently. Life before the fall may have been meant to be easy, but not since then.

Four or five years ago I read two of Wally Lamb's novels. They are excellent stories, and both follow main characters whose lives become, over most of the course of the novel, much harder than mine has ever been. I read both as audio books, and at the end of "I Know This Much is True" the reader interview Mr. Lamb about the novel, his life, and his writing. When asked why his characters went through such amazing difficulties, and why it was the hardest part of their lives that Lamb wanted to focus on, he said something pretty interesting. He did write about characters who faced much greater hardships than he ever had. He hoped he never would go through what they did. But if he had written about characters who always had everything go their way, we never would have found out what they were really like, or how strong they were. He felt his characters were most interesting and engaging as they struggled. It wasn't hardship and suffering that made them interesting, but what they became as they coped and came through the most difficult events of their lives that made them worth writing and reading about.

I think this is why I view his novels, which in synopsis may sound very depressing, as being really very positive.

I recently had about a five year span in my life that went very smoothly. It might look uneventful to some, but my difficulties were small and easily solved or endured, and I was quite happy with that arrangement. Over the past two years things have been a little tougher, and I often feel that resentment again, because I believed that life was meant to be as it was before the fall. As I watch the yarn break I'm learning that life may have been meant to be perfect before the inevitable fall but once we fell the intention changed. The solution wasn't to restore humanity to it's garden of Eden innocence, thereby avoiding the problem. The answer is to solve the problems, not avoid or rewrite them. That act of salvation for humanity involved more suffering than I ever wish to know.

In the fallen world I live in, I do have to keep facing my problems; I can't avoid them, and don't really get to be indignant about them because Sue was right. Life is supposed to be hard. It's supposed to challenge me.

And the yarn full of joins? It held together. Thanks to Louise, my joins are strong. I've learned that breaks and joins are just as much a part of making yarn as drafting and adding twist. I can now reap great enjoyment and relaxation from the whole process, and consider my spinning a source of solace, joins and all, when the rest of life has gotten me down with it's trials.