I had forgotten how wonderful a warm fire feels on a cold day. We had a wood stove at the farm. After we moved to town, installing a wood-burning fireplace insert went on the to-do list, but it would always slip down a few notches as other things crept up the list.
I grew up in Wisconsin. I have never been so cold in my life. We saw the forecast, so we prepared. We filled three five-gallon jugs and the bathtubs with water. We had two weeks’ worth of food (although my plans to make lasagna mid-week were foiled). I also made a point of finishing the laundry on Sunday night.
Back in 2011 the power outage didn’t last as long, but we didn’t suffer because the wood stove kept us warm and heated coffee (always essential) and food. Here in town we have a gas furnace, but every time the electricity rolled off during Uri, so did the heat. Getting a wood stove went to the top of the to-do list.
As the good people at Heffley’s installed the fireplace insert this fall, I learned how lucky we were that we didn’t chance using the old gas logs. (Before we moved in, the home inspector declined to check the fireplace. He told me to get a plumber instead. That job never even made the to-do list.) We discovered that the rock façade had separated from the chimney. We probably would have set the house on fire that week.
The whole experience made me re-think what it means to be prepared and resilient. We took care of some of that this year. But buying stuff (we also got a Goal Zero battery with solar panels and a portable cooktop) doesn’t necessarily make you prepared and resilient.
Perhaps the last five years’ of resolutions were leading to this moment — saying no to buying stuff, saying yes to new experiences, better connecting to others, wearing an apron (looking for simple solutions), and taking it (whatever it might be) to all four corners.
Sometimes I think about those worst-case scenario books the kids loved when they were young. They were often funny and terribly fantastical (dodging an alligator attack or elephant stampede, landing a jet, etc.) but after Hurricane Harvey, I wondered how to pitch the tent on the roof. In the meantime, we will set up our go-bags.
Climate change is here. Time to be prepared and resilient.
I bet your fireplace is so cozy now! I grew up with a Buck Stove — and listened to my mother complain about smoke in the house for more than a decade. (I bet they have improved.) But I always warmed up by the fire and have terrific memories of that. Way to go!
There’s very little smoke if you do it right, that much is better. But there’s still dust from the ash can and the detritus that comes with bringing loads of kindling and logs into the house. I didn’t miss that at all. In all those years, I never bought wood. There was always plenty around us. Mark would help people cut down dead trees for the wood. I scored some this year, but also bought some. Sam had to stack it so carefully because, of course, some carpenter ants hitchhiked with it and we had to take care of that right away.
I won’t soon forget the call I got at the office after we published a story about how medically vulnerable people in Denton were thrown into uncertainty by Uri.
The man described himself as “kind of a prepper.” His aim in calling was to shame me – and medically vulnerable people who found their medical devices – wheelchairs, pacemaker readers, hospice beds that inflate – failing during the freeze. He deplored our lack of resilience. People who ever need the government are moochers on Planet Rand.
I wish I’d have the courage to quote George O’Dell (“We Need One Another’) to him:
“We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey. All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.”
My irritable doomsday-prepping caller might well be ready for his death. But he will very likely need another person to set his remains on the fire, or to lower it into the ground.
Resilience is nice, but it’s like religion. You can’t really practice resilience in solitude. Resilience is a net made of people and promises.
Sorry for the novel. This post stirred me.
My gosh you said that so well. Humans are herd animals and our resilience requires reciprocity.