It was a calm evening, with a faint rainbow and a sunset that took me off my route home to bask in its beauty. From home, it was showier to the east than to the west. Maybe I should have had a clue that something out of the ordinary was coming.
I didn’t know there was a storm brewing—”worst of the winter so far with wind gusts of 50-80mph causing massive power outages”—until I saw a Facebook post just before I headed to bed. Great.
It hit at midnight on January 6, Epiphany, the celebration of the climax of the magi’s quest. It was thunderous. Fir cones hitting the roof sounded like bowling balls. The lowest branch of the fir tree outside my bedroom window waved wildly—the branch I have regretted not including in those I had removed to open the view. At 12:25 a BOOM had me upright in bed; coinciding with the eerie silence of a power outage. Not a tree, I know that sound. A transformer, I assumed.
Branches hit the roof with a thud, then skittered off when the next gust wailed across the valley and over my hillside home and into the grove of trees on the other side of the house. Loud crashes had me clean out of bed twice, but there was no where to go. I desperately wanted to be in the basement where maybe I wouldn’t hear every cone and branch that hit the roof; but I had a guest in the Airbnb.
I wasn’t terrified, but I was anxious. I felt vulnerable, and desperately wanted it to end. I was at the mercy of nature, and there was nothing I could do about it but wait it out. When it finally stopped ninety minutes later, I prayed it wasn’t the eye of the storm. It’s not a hurricane, I told myself; there is no eye. Please, please don’t let this be an eye.
Epiphany: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.
It was the end and I fell into fitful sleep some time later. There was no reason to get up before daylight; it was dark and cold. And there was no coffee.
The power finally clicked on shortly after 8:00—just as I was lighting a fire—with Alexa informing me that my WiFi was disconnected from a power source. She knew the power was back before I did.
I pulled up a chair and sat by the fire until I ran out of wood, then reluctantly dressed and headed out to clean up the yard and driveway. It took all afternoon. I hauled a loaded wheelbarrow full from two sides of the house up the driveway to the collection point. I threw that much more from the other two sides over the retaining wall into the DMZ on the east side of the house. A large branch—big enough for firewood—was probably one of the crashes I heard as it hit the overhang and fell into the narrow space between the house and the carport. I dragged it down the steps to the firewood rack to cut up later.
Another loud crash was no doubt the stepladder falling off the side of the shed. I returned it to its place, and left the strewn plastic plant pots—that I keep meaning to take to the transfer station for recycling—where they lay for now.
The driveway debris was daunting. I didn’t know where to start; but, as always, I just began. It had to be done. It was one of those times I wished for a partner in this adventure.
Epiphany: an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking.
The storm debris doubled the pile of rhododendron prunings I had stacked last month in my driveway’s turn around/additional parking area. There will be more before the winter is over, and I know my limitations. I can’t pitchfork it all into a trailer and all back out at the transfer station. Besides, I don’t have a trailer. I would have to ask for help, and that’s hard for me. And it needs to happen before the next storm makes it overwhelming.
It was a lesson in doing what needs to be done in the moment regardless of other plans. I wonder how the hundred acre wood got along—there are always trees down in there—but trail and meadow clean-up can wait for another day.
I hauled a load of firewood from the grove at the edge of the meadow down to the wood rack by the house, then went back up the driveway for the rake and saw. Returning to the house, the eagle caught my attention. It glided back and forth behind the fir, coming close then moving farther back, then close again. I’m doing it, Daddy. Thank you for being here.
Epiphany: an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being.
When I got back to the house, I sent Chris—the generous man who mows the meadow for me and for my mother before me—a text message to see if he and/or his son could haul it off at their convenience. He wrote back immediately. “Yes! Sooner rather than later.” I do have partners.
Epiphany: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.
I checked in with my elderly neighbor. He said I was next on his storm report list. He was fine, without his hearing aides during the night he didn’t hear the three large trees that fell in the woods right behind his house that would have scared the daylights out of me. Without people with chainsaws, his access to the trail he walks with his dog several times a week—still, at 92— is cut off.
I emailed the president of the Friends of Seminary Hill, of which my parents and my neighbors were founding members, asking if the Friends could help. He wrote back immediately. In the meantime, I will invite Robert and Gracie to accompany me on another route to his familiar trail.
I continue to live on this wild piece of property, caring for it, sharing it, loving it as my parents did. And following the star wherever it leads.
“Without the quest, there can be no epiphany,” Constantine E. Scaros.
A friend shared a newsletter from Abbey of the Arts. I think this storm and its aftermath touched on each point (detailed in the newsletter) of the lessons of Epiphany.
- Follow the star to where it leads.
- Embark on the journey, however long or difficult.
- Open yourself to wonder along the way.
- Bow down to holy encounters in messy places.
- Carry your treasures and give them away freely.
- Listen to the wisdom of dreams.
- Go home by another way.