Earlier this month, our third major storm in a month rolled through.
I was heading out across the driveway with an egg basket in my hand, when I met our hired man John with his wife and children, all heading for my house. They stay in a trailer and were on their way to our basement.
I turned around with the egg basket and walked back to the house with them as the rain started to pelt us. Then I tried to be a good hostess in our musty, cluttered old basement. I tried ineffectually to find some folding chairs and was wondering if I should try to bring down a tea pot, when the power went off. A good hostess surely distributes flashlights at times like this, I thought, but I was almost too flustered to find them.
Losing power at our house is a huge deal. We have 600 fluffy chicks, less than a week old, who depend on heat lamps. We have thousands of dollars of frozen meat in a fleet of chest freezers, and more money tied up in refrigerated eggs.
My husband, Ian, who was driving the children back from a family reunion in Wisconsin, was stuck at a restaurant in Hudson because of the storm, but thankfully the cell phones worked, so we were able to hatch out a plan while waiting out the rain and wind.
As soon as the weather allowed, John and I were to go out and buy the large generator we’ve been saying for years that we need. Ian thought we’d better hurry to the store because generators might be in high demand with everyone’s power out. My hands were almost shaky from all the excitement. I pictured elbowing my way through crowds of people pushing their way over the generators in Menards. I pictured a full Menards parking lot, just like Black Friday. John he should go with me, which I thought was not very necessary, but he was friendly and prevailed.
We arrived in a perfectly deserted rainy parking lot and made our way through the cavernous isles, which were not over-run with people even when we stood before the towering display of generators. I think we might have been the only customers in the place.
But in my flustered state of mind, I had forgotten my purse. The store would have closed by the time I drove back home and returned with it, so John talked to the manager. We were able to make the purchase with just the credit card number. Then came the weighty challenge. Moving that big machine from its shelf to the truck was one of the unbelievable feats of engineering that working people pull off every single day without applause. John is an expert at these things, and the generator was safely packed in the truck.
I might have been able to get the job done myself — with some very serious kindness and help from the people who worked there. But I was grateful for John’s help.
As we drove home, around tree branches, the sun came out above the horizon and lit the whole world up with an orange glow. Turning down our road, we saw a perfect double rainbow in that orange sky with lightening flashing inside it.
Ian finally pulled into the driveway with our children, and soon the small generator that we’ve had for years was roaring to give heat to our baby chicks. I did evening chicken chores with my daughter while my older son put my younger son to bed. By the time my girl and I walked back across the driveway with buckets full of eggs, it was pitch black outside. We saw Ian and John bending over the new generator, headlamps glowing in the darkness.
It was a gorgeous sight to me — impressive and comforting. The darkness pressed around them, but the white lights from their head lamp bobbed and turned. I was grateful for their attention and skill. Then the whole night came flooding back to me — the amazing sky and the frantic drive through the rain. I could almost feel the leaves moving peacefully in the gentle wind after the storm, and I took great comfort in the impressive roar of the little old generator. I felt life pouring through us and around us, and my heart was barely big enough to hold the wonder of it. I went inside to help my big son with my little son, who was still awake and scared of the dark.
“Thank you,” I thought as I held my littlest in my arms. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Elizabeth O’Sullivan raises chicken and hogs at her farm Auntie Annie’s Fields in rural Dundas. Find her or her daughter, Emily, at the Fulton Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. More of her writing appears on the farm website: auntieanniesfields.com.
To learn more about the Kingfield, Fulton and Nokomis farmers markets, go to neighborhoodrootsmn.org.