To keep myself inspired, I used to drive past my “dream house”, the one I would buy someday when I won the lottery, or published my book with wild success. In late October 2013, I did one of my drive-bys. There it was–rolling hill, pond, barns, woods in the back…with a newly placed SOLD above the realty sign. I was devastated.
In the middle of my despair, my 9-yr-old encouraged me.
Having that “dream house” suddenly snatched from me was the last straw in a year of many ups and downs. 2013 included job changes for my husband, a couple of serious health scares for both of us, and the financial stress that accompanies both. I was starting to doubt I would ever finish my book.
By December, we were looking forward to my mother-in-law’s usual ten-day visit. Granny’s arrival meant we could relax, bake cookies for the neighbors, make a zombie gingerbread house, go sledding, and watch holiday movies.
Not one of those things happened. Not one.
Instead, the Friday she was scheduled to arrive by train the weather started turning ugly enough for a snow day. The boys were thrilled to begin winter break a day early, but I was not thrilled to drive on slippery roads to the train station. Nevertheless, we picked her up and made it back home safely. We decided to wait to bake cookies until Sunday. We had a quiet evening at home, as the freezing rain pelted against the windows.
On Saturday, both boys spent time with friends while Granny and I finished some last minute shopping and savored a stop at a cozy coffee shop. By late afternoon, it was clear we should get home because the freezing rain was back with a vengeance.
Around 2 am Sunday, I awoke to the realization that we had lost power. It happens occasionally, but it’s usually restored within a couple of hours. I tried to go back to sleep, but the house was growing cold. By 6 am, the power was still out, and I was sitting in the living room wrapped in a blanket next to the dog, trying to access the power company’s website on my phone. The website wouldn’t load and there were no local news updates. Then my phone died. I couldn’t make coffee. I was cold and cranky. As each family member awoke, they marveled at
the haunting beauty of the ice covered trees, glistening in the morning sunlight.
It was pretty, but I was impatient and still without coffee.
At 8 am, my husband was unable to access the power company’s website on his phone either (we would later learn that it was crashing because thousands of people were doing the same thing). Around 1 pm a power company truck was on our street, so I assumed (wrongly) that the power would be back on soon. At 2 pm I learned from a neighbor that the power company had informed him that they couldn’t safely repair downed lines while dangerous tree limbs were in the way, and couldn’t remove tree limbs until some of the ice melted, and it wasn’t supposed to warm up for about ten days!
The authorities were starting to open warming centers for people without family or friends nearby. We were among over 400,000 across the state without power. The house was uncomfortably cold, and we knew we couldn’t stay overnight, so I drove Granny and the kids to my brother’s house nearly an hour away. It was like a giant slumber party, and we were grateful to be warm and laugh with family. After a long work day, my amazing husband returned to our home with a borrowed generator to heat one room for himself and the pets.
On Monday, some friends of my husband’s offered for us to stay in their vacant home, located just outside the power outage area. We drove back from my brother’s, not knowing what we would find at the new place, but thankful to be closer so we could keep checking on our pets. The drive was breath taking. We were in awe at the surreal layer of ice on all the trees and homes along the way. It was incredible to comprehend such beauty had caused so much damage.
I can still remember the road leading to the house–all of us gasped at the archway of ice covered trees. I had never met the owners until then, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were both originally from Australia (my sister has lived there since the late ’80s). Once inside, it instantly became my new “dream house”. From every single window, we had a postcard view of the icy woods. In the midst of the chaos and inconvenience of the power outage, this truly felt like a gift.
My exhausted, bewildered spirit was restored with the magick of possibility.
We slept there two nights in sleeping bags, including Christmas Eve. It was a quiet, electronics-free zone. We played board games and counted squirrels and watched the birds. We were almost sad to leave when the power returned for Christmas.
A couple of weeks later, as I sent my completed manuscript off to my agent, there had been one last revision.
I changed the title to “The Recollection of Trees”.
I had been toying with the idea for months, but when I stood in the new house, the panoramic views confirmed in my soul that the new title was perfect.
With a renewed calm, I gently held onto the new house as a real possibility. I knew deep within myself that somehow everything would be more than alright. I knew that I would have a home like that someday soon, if not that very one.
My son was right. There was a better dream, well beyond the scope of my imagination.
It was the perfect ending to a crazy year. It was the perfect storm.