You don’t realize how cold it is until the power goes out. The wind was kicking up like something else and the trees out back were shaking like crazy. It was only 26 or 30 below, so the wind chill was from all that howling. (Listen to me — ‘only 26 or 30 below’ — like I’m from here and this is no big deal.) I was lying in the dark when the power went out, but I knew it had gone out because the house suddenly got quiet — no furnace. And it wasn’t more than a few minutes before the air just started to feel cold. It leaks out fast.
I have a lot of wood stacked in back of the house. Finn stopped by a week ago, I think he was just wandering around aimlessly and he was getting cold so he stopped here to say hello. Then he seemed restless, like he was supposed to be doing something. So he went out back and got the axe out of the garage — I didn’t even know where it was — and honed the blade awhile and then chopped through a whole lot of this pile of logs I paid someone for last year and never used. Maybe I’ll use it in my fireplace now.
But it seemed to cold to go outside and bring in the wood, so instead I went and got Leah and let her come in here and curl up. At first I think she was going to say there’s no way she wanted to come sleep in my room. I just repainted it for her, this purple color she insisted on, and now she seems to think her room is the greatest hideout in the world and no one is allowed in there and she doesn’t want to be anywhere else. But after I sat there talking to her for just a minute, she sat up and of course she’s not wearing the warm pajamas I bought her. She’s dressed like it’s summer in Florida. But at least when she sat up she felt how cold the air had gotten already and she rubbed her eyes and said, “Why is it so freezing in here?” And I said, “The power is out, the furnace is out, I already told you.” And she hollered and ran yelling into my room and by the time I got back there she was already curled up in it. I piled on a few extra blankets. One of the things I love about the winter nights here is you can pile the bed up with quilts and blankets and feel like you’re in the coziest nest in the world, even though you’re just some drywall and siding and insulation away from freezing, like in those pioneer stories people like to tell me at the cafe, where an interesting story about a family and their travails settling suddenly comes to “and then the house caught on fire in a stowstorm or the roof blew in under a lot of snow and then the family froze to death, the end.” But of course thinking that you’re only some drywall and insulation and a layer of siding away from freezing is half of what makes it so cozy.
Leah and I sat up and talked awhile. It seems like we haven’t done that in awhile. She told me it was probably even colder at her dad’s apartment. I wanted to ask her what his apartment is like, but then I don’t really, after how badly he kept house in the basement while we lived here together. Can you believe it I don’t know what his house looks like? I don’t know where my own daughter spends four nights in a row every two weeks? I don’t know that it’s safe or not? But I don’t. People tell me I should, but I’m sure that if I knew about that, then I would have to … do more. She seems to think it is safe. She’s twelve now. Maybe I should start to trust her.
I got off that subject and pretty quickly we were giggling about maybe everything would be frozen solid and blown over by morning and there’d still be no power and so there’d be no school and no cafe and we could just sit in bed together and talk awhile or get up and roast marshmallows in the fireplace. Pretty silly talk, but it was fun to laugh. And then I heard her breathing and I was alone again, just me in the quiet house, the quiet broken every few minutes by the wood snapping in the terrible cold or by the wind lashing at the maples and the spruce trees, shaking their brittle limbs loose and letting them fly through the air. Just me in the dark and the hugeness of all that black sound.