Motorists had to take their chances driving under a tree that was resting on power lines on Route 5 in Limerick. Gregory Rec/Press Herald

I was living alone in Bethel at the time, on the second floor of a two-family house in the village. The power was off for 14 days. It took a while for the gravity of the situation to sink in. At first I worried mostly about the three birch trees in the yard, which were bowed and anchored to the ground by the ice. I went outside and chopped at the ice holding them to the ground, but they only straightened a little because of the weight of the remaining ice. I shook the branches and pried at the ice. It came off in splinters and shards that made a tinkling sound as they rained down on the ice that encased the snow in the yard. Little by little, the trees would straighten, but I couldn’t get all of the ice off. In fact, those trees never recovered completely. I realized the situation might go on awhile.

My downstairs neighbors left to stay with friends in Portland. The weather was eerie and depressing; not the wonderful clear blue skies that winter can deliver, but day after day of gray skies with temperature just below freezing and no sun to help with melting. And it was mid-January. It seemed possible that we would have to wait for March sun before the ice would lift. I stayed in the apartment for about four days, thinking I could tough it out since the outside temperatures were not that cold.

One of the things I remember is how much I missed hot water. It was cold so I needed hot food and beverages, but the only thing I had that would produce hot water was a fondue pot and Sterno containers. That became the system for cooking food and for heating water for beverages and clean-up. Accomplishing these sometimes conflicting goals required careful planning – not to mention a lot of time waiting for Sterno-fueled water to come to a boil.

The other thing I remember was being bored. I didn’t have a TV, so I didn’t miss that, but reading and writing were stationary activities that I could only do for so long, even wrapped up. Then I would need to move around – but doing what? I couldn’t cook or run the vac, and the streets were too treacherous for walking. Sometimes I would get into the car and just drive around town running the heater and luxuriating in the warmth. Half the town never lost power, so I would stop off at the gas station in town and buy a small miracle of hot chocolate.

After four days, I could feel myself becoming slow and sluggish and just wanting to sleep, and I began to be afraid of creeping hypothermia. When a friend who ran a motel in town that still had power offered me a room, I jumped at it, especially since I was entering a workweek and needed the computer. I was there for about four days when she told me I’d have to vacate because she had reservations for skiers who would require all the rooms that weekend. I should have anticipated this, but I hadn’t. I was shocked. Now what?

For the first time in my life, I had no idea where I would be sleeping that night, and it was jarring.

By then power had been restored to my street, but the individual wire to my house was also down, and individual fixes were at the bottom of the list. Fortunately, my part-time job required me to be in Days Ferry periodically, and the big renovated barn where we worked putting out a biweekly newspaper had some sleeping accommodations. I went down early and slept in the barn for a few days while we finished that issue’s production. It was a long strange drive to Days Ferry: The roads were clear by then, but the ice persisted on either side. I drove through many sections where huge swaths of trees were bowed and broken under glittering ice. The devastation was heartbreaking.

After the paper had been sent to the printer, I came back to Bethel and stayed at the home of an older couple who I knew slightly from my work at the land trust. I don’t remember how this came about, but they were kind and I was very grateful. Once a day I would go back to my house on Paradise Hill Road, pick up the mail, make phone calls – remember landlines? – and wander through the cold rooms. By then some sunny days had returned, and the living room could be almost pleasant. Sometimes I would wrap up in the down sleeping bag and nap on the couch just to feel like I still had a home.

One afternoon, 14 days in, I was lying there, having just woken up from a nap, and I heard the furnace click on. The lamp beside the sofa also came on, a signal from an almost-forgotten life. And I cried.

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