Monday, July 9, 2012

This Dark Week

What happened to my fifteen minutes a day?

This happened.

This photo was taken by an S&I secretary in Charleston, West Virginia as the Derecho approached their city.  It looks like the ocean has taken to the sky, rolling in to engulf the land in its watery wildness.  Strange that there was no rain.  This storm carried anger more than water.

This is one tree on one hill in one little town along the path of the dreaded Derecho that hit June 29th, last Friday night.  This happens to be in my little town, but thankfully it is not my tree.

Here is what happened in our house.

We were just finishing watching a new-ish Rhett and Link video on YouTube, sending the kids off to brush their teeth and put their bodies in their beds when a ferocious sound came to life outside.  The wind howled in astonishing maleficence.  Our lights flickered at about 9:30 pm, then vanished into the darkness, carried away with the wind traveling north.  We had no idea what had whipped through Buena Vista.  We had no idea that it had left all of West Virginia flat and tangled before it reached us, or that an hour later it would visit Katie and Roane in D.C. and carry their electricity away as well.  We thought it was our thunder and lightning, a wind belonging to the Shenandoah Valley that left a bit of debris in our yard from the trees we were already fixing to have taken down.

We knew the location of one MagLite that even had batteries in it.  We lit the few tea light candles we had and made ourselves a big family bed on the floor in the living room.  When morning came there was still no electricity and the scene outside was more destruction than we discerned in the dark attack the night before.  Had we known what was happening around us Jonah and I would never have gone out in it, hand in hand, looking for the neighbors chickens that we had taken responsibility for that morning when they left town.

By nightfall we had seen the fallen trees and power lines everywhere.  We saw broken houses, torn siding, roof shingles blown away.  We heard chainsaws everywhere.  We passed mega lines at every gas station where they were running out of gas and only selling what they had for cash.  There was still no power and our house was hot by then so we packed up and slept on the floor at the institute where there was electricity and air conditioning.  Then again the third night.

The fourth night we took up residence in another family's home who were traveling in Utah and had power.  We had thrown out most of the food from our refrigerator, saved some by filling the institute refrigerator and divided our freezer food between four different freezers in town.  Jonah was sure I would forget where to collect all our frozen food.

I felt strangely unfazed by the ordeal.

"Oh, hello Transience, my old friend.  We met last year around this time.  Do you remember?"

I remember.

"Last year you were a flood.  This year you are wind.  But I am not troubled like I was the first time."

I know now that my babies can sleep just about anywhere once they are tired.  I learned that we all want to serve each other so much we are almost grateful for calamity just so we can say "I have this you can use, or eat, or have."

We make new friends and talk to people staring at the same empty shelves at the grocery store that should have milk but have nothing at all.  We ask "Do you have power yet?"  And they say "Oh no honey, we ain't got power or water.  We got a generator keepin' the fridge cold, but now there ain't no milk to put in it.  WalMart ran out of bottled water on the first day."  And then we say "God Bless.  Good luck," and we go back to our slightly disturbed, displaced lives and feel the heat, hoping that those two hundred electrical workers that came from out of state to fix everything remember our neighborhood.

The Rasmussens are all home now.  We are fine - no one hurt or harmed in any way.  The fourth of July brought fireworks and electricity in our sockets.  There are a few things that we need to have in order before the next encounter.  Like filling our water barrels, purchasing many batteries, candles, and maybe a generator.

Mostly I am grateful for the way a whole town becomes a familial refuge.  There is a House of York, a House of Lancaster - we are the House of Buena Vista, southern, rough, educated, blue collar, middle class, dirt poor, shirtless, well dressed, Mormon, Baptist, Episcopalian - but one house.  And I think our whole house has their lights back now.


camjackieward said...

I really want to live by you again, storm or no storm. Cameron keeps looking out there for jobs, no luck so far.

JaeReg said...

Keep looking. Did I tell you Katie and Roane are in D.C. now? Roane got a job with a patent law firm out here. I want to live by you again too, and I want it to be here. There is a house down the street from us that will be empty as of this coming Monday. Perfect.

camjackieward said...

That would be perfect! You did tell me last time we talked that Katie and Roane are out there. Cameron's brother heads that way next year, he is doing a clerkship and then out to firm life. Cameron is only applying for in-house council jobs because he wants to get away from the billable hour. He did tell me last night that he had a dream he was an English Lit professor. Any jobs like that at SVU?

JaeReg said...

This is Matt. Hi guys. Miss you both, loads! No English Lit professors, but they are hiring an assistant to the Vice President of Institutional Advancement. It wouldn't be lawyer pay, but you can walk to your office in 8 minutes and bask in small town quiet! If this requires additional persuasion, let me know. I'm just warming up.

camjackieward said...

Just checked it out on their website. I don't know about additional persuasion, but maybe a small pension from your paycheck to help make ends meet. I think the professor of economics would be more up his alley. Any idea what SVU pays their professors?

Unknown said...

What does SVU pay its professors? I couldn't say. But before I continue, how cool is it that we are even having this conversation! I did consider the economics post when thinking of Cameron, but wondered if an administrative / leadership position would pay better and be more consistent with his . . . modus operandi?

I know the faculty pay at SVU isn't stellar. And yet, people who come, stay. There are many good reasons for this. The environment is great. No professional turf wars. Tremendous collegiality. And the students are stellar. The LDS environment makes a huge difference. And the scenery of the Blue Ridge is breathtaking. So, the salary would almost certainly be a disappointment, but there are (and this will sound horribly idealistic) genuine immaterial benefits associated with life here. The campus community is active, intimate, and inclusive. We had no time to feel homesick. There is so much activity and momentum to the place that you just get swept up in it all.

The university is also in a clear transitional period. Lot's of exciting changes, developments, and opportunities associated with this. Elder Paul K. Sybrowski, formerly of the Seventy, was recently appointed as president. He has a well-deserved reputation for being a successful fund-raiser and I know for a fact that improving faculty benefits and salary is a priority to his administration. When or how that will manifest itself remains to be seen.

I admit my perspective on these issues is limited (and perhaps a little too rosy?) since I spend my days in the Institute building and not on SVU campus. If you want to get the perspective of a few university employees, let me know. I could put you in touch with several who are demonstrably committed to this place, notwithstanding the comparative modesty of their remuneration.

Ooh. The very thought! Let's explore this one further. I hope Cameron's reading over your shoulder!

JaeReg said...

That last comment was from me, by the way (as in Matt, not "Unknown").

camjackieward said...

He's not reading over my shoulder, but I'm definately forwarding on the information. We would love to be out there! At this point we just kind of would love to be anywhere else. We still love Rose Park and would hate to leave, but sort of feel like now is the time to make a change. We just don't know if the Lord feels the same way as we do. Here's hoping!

Susan said...

I had a roommate from Louisiana who also was "fixing" to do things. Have you turned into a real southerner in only a year?

We're all waiting for a post on what you learned about preparedness during your week of no power.

We were nearly threatened, not by wind, but by fire. Our local mountain wore a halo of smoke tinged with the red reflection of flames that were too close for comfort. Thankfully, the wind shifted and carried the fire away instead of towards us. Scary!!!

I think there's a Cary Grant movie in which he says something like, "Don't kid yourself. If nature had her way, we'd ALL be dead."

camjackieward said...

Hey, on a different note. I just watched the Rhett & Link video and thought you'd like these guys,