The Doldrums of Winter

When the power is out, there is time to do things like build a Snow Queen.

My usual routine of posting something every few days has been decidedly interrupted by a winter storm that I have determined must be called ‘the doldrums of winter’.  After posting how lovely the place looked with all the snow, I thoughtlessly wished it would stay around for awhile. Never did I realize how my powers of manifestation would be abused!  We entered into a storm cycle that left us literally withOUT power for 4 days, with a large hole in our kitchen window, and a yard that looks like a cyclone thundered through. And the snow did, indeed, linger through all of this.

It is this time without electricity, during the darkness and cold of winter, that I am referring to as the ‘doldrums’. Sailors will recognize that term as referring to the areas of low pressure around the equator that are famous for having little to no wind. Sailboats can sit for days, or even weeks, until the wind, their source of power, returns. I’m imagining some sailors have been driven insane by this waiting.

I’m reading Miles Hordern’s book Sailing the Pacific, his story of sailing from New Zealand to Chile and back by himself. In his book, he describes his experience of the doldrums thus:

” There was nothing to do. Or perhaps, I could do nothing. I turned on the radio, but its talk was of a world I no longer knew. A book was hopeless: I could seldom read a sentence before my concentration dissolved. …Again and again I found myself climbing to the deck….Each time I hoped that finally there might be something there…..But each time there was nothing.”

I believe this aptly describes Mike’s behavior during this brief time of living without electricity and internet service while the storm raged on. The word ‘raged’ here means the sound of exploding limbs, falling trees, and continued snow. Mike was actively involved in ‘waiting’, which everyone knows is a verb of action. He waited at the window, watching. He waited outside, until I got just a little upset at him for wandering around underneath the deadly trees and called to him in a rather loud voice to come inside. He talked on the cell phone to our neighbors to coordinate experiences and wonder out loud when the power would be restored, when another limb might hit the house, whether a tree would fall. Would our little enclave of a few houses warrant the attention of the power company? Did they KNOW we were powerless? How long would we have to wait? Days? Weeks? The stillness that was usually my husband was nowhere to be found. Perhaps men are like this when their homes are threatened.

The remains of the birch tree.

I, on the other hand, was the essence of feminine patience. I sat placidly by the window, doing crafts by lamplight, occasionally getting up to stoke the fire. It was as though I was gestating in some way, although what I would be giving birth to is beyond me at this point. I hope I am creating here a dramatic enough picture. The exploding trees interested me in a sad kind of way, but I felt deeply the fact that I had absolutely no power to do anything about the storm. It would do its devilry to our trees and property, and then we would clean up later. My birch tree was snapped in two pieces. I barely batted an eyelash. My smoke trees were smashed to smithereens by huge branches. I will recover.  We were warm, dry, fed, and together. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs had never been better met. It’s true that should a tree land on our house, we could be injured, but worrying about it would not change that. Why this logic generally escapes me when it comes, say, to my children, is beyond me. Still, I sat smugly enjoying the slowness of life.

A hummingbird on my frozen rhododendron. We kept our feeders full during the storm.

In fact, when the electricity came back on yesterday, I was a bit disconcerted at first. And then I felt a little mournful. It’s not that I don’t like having the convenience because, after all, I am not crazy. But I do love those times when life is pretty simple and small. Having a power outage makes life very small and contained, and only the basic things are important. Now that the power is back, we live large again. In some ways, this is unfortunate.

Somewhere underneath these branches are my beautiful mature smoke trees, sacrificed to the god of winter.


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