I started this post a week ago, then paused.
After several months riding waves of illness and holiday mayhem and community heartache and winter weather (cough*cough*ice storms that delayed my flight to Kansas*cough), we sent 2016 out with a half-hearted bang…and then January 2017 blew into town with teeth searing cold, dumping a feathery white straitjacket on the city of Portland.
As I’m publishing tonight, storm scenes seem melted from memory (making me glad for photos and snippets like the ones below — if only for the reminder that tempests pass). I’m still unwinding, though. Cabin fever and its jarring focus on the here and now brought lessons I’m still stewing on, and I’ve not made peace with words to dig at the heart of the matter. So, it’s mostly photos. Enjoy? (Or at least help me spot all the beautiful silver linings?)
In the 1980s/90s, I watched the BBC Narnia miniseries and joked along with my family about Lucy’s overbite and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s hospitable little waddles and the White Witch’s house being “between those two hills.”
I think on my first trip to Europe as a 17 year old, I might’ve helped bring then-friend(-and-not-boyfriend-and-definitely-not-husband)-Ted some Turkish Delight as a souvenir?
And when the newer production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was released before our round the world trip, I enjoyed spotting familiar filming locations from my plush Oregon theater seat and later returning to those beautiful corners of New Zealand on foot.
Anyway, the point of the Narnia rabbit trail is this: snow scenes and sleigh rides and doomed winters under a spell of despair all seemed so fantastic (in the sense of literary fantasy)…until a few decades later when (while living with a little Lucie of my very own) I experienced right here in Oregon a Narnian stretch of “Always Winter But Never Christmas.”
I’m too taxed and tired tonight to list all the ways the snow and iced has overwhelmed our little family, let alone our neighbors all around the paralyzed city.
Right now, I’m in my backyard studio, and the freezing rain is falling hard. The hope? That temperatures rise and the skies send relief to wash away the thick layer of snow and ice that’s held housebound school kids and parents captive for the better part of a week.
Let’s start with ten days ago: smiling, happy, easy Saturday with all four of us home together. (Marion pulling her habitual hat stealing stunt.) They predicted a weekend storm of mixed snow and ice, so Ted and I put the girls to bed and roasted homemade marshmallows (thanks, Mel!) for s’mores in defiance of the weather.
Come Monday morning, though, Ted needed to leave for a business trip, and our neighborhood still stood covered in ice.
What other choice but to deal?
Ted left, I managed solo with Lucie and Marion for the first day and a half.
But then Tuesday night rolled around, and instead of hosting half a dozen girlfriends for pie and tea and conversation and get-your-mind-off-the-state-of-the-world handicrafts, I sat alone in my living room while the heavens dumped 8″ of snow in a matter of hours.
But I ate pie.
Help! I feel like I'm trapped in Frozen on loop. Also: This is why I always want to leave the white lights on for weeks and weeks after Christmas. Also 2: Please take note of the (dwindling) brush pile in the front yard — scraps from the birch tree casualty of last month's ice storm. Also 3: Following National Weather Service Portland on Twitter is tons of fun. (Well, more fun than following the school districts and reading about closures, anyway.) They're upping the East of 205 prediction by another 2-4" and we already had almost 6" of snow by 10:30pm. We'll see what morning brings… #rydmarkhomestead #portlandsnow #whitelights
At nearly midnight, the snow had already drifted high and the streetlights (and lingering Christmas lights) bounced brightness up and down and all around, back and forth between snow and clouds, eerily illuminating the night sky as if I’d found myself in some mythical far-north village. (Who am I to say, though? I haven’t made it to Sweden or Iceland or the great Arctic tundra…I really have nothing but other people’s pictures to go on.)
It was silent and magical, and while the two little ones dreamed away the night, tucked in their beds, I just wished Ted was home to make his trademark speculative weather forecasts and talk through logistics of snow and ice and firewood. But I crawled in bed alone…and woke to a wonderland too cold for more than a 15 minute foray with the girls. (To her credit, Lucie did want to build a snowman and insisted on bringing a carrot out from the fridge, but between flakes that wouldn’t pack compounded by general scale issues, I don’t know that it’s worth having photographic evidence of the outcome. Let’s say the orange fruits back inside made for better play than the orange vegetable.)
At least the snow angel turned out slightly better than Olaf?
Ted made it home safely from his trip but needed to commute back into the downtown Portland office, so I let my work stack up and instead ran a pretty spiffy little ballet studio (thank you, Vimeo mini documentaries on Austrian ballet troupes),
And then came blanket forts, and laundry basket cars, and sunglasses parties, and anything else we could do to pass the time. (Literally anything. Like, occasionally headphones and PBS Kids just to help carve out a little silence for this mama. I know it was a measure previously crafted for airplane trips with toddlers…but sometimes travel informs life at home and you just go with it.)
At last, relief.
Still so much snow, but thankfully a having a husband who loves driving in winter weather meant we could finally made a group break for doughnuts and fresh air. Snow and ice on unsalted roads. A slick trek out to Gresham to visit Aunt Kristi, and later that night a return trip to Laurelhurst for a potluck with fellow stir-crazies.
I did the math: 88.5 hours (5,310 minutes) straight stuck in the house with the girls during this #pdxsnow storm. I'm a born-and-raised-here, don't-know-how-to-drive-in-snow Oregonian, so I haven't been behind the wheel since Tuesday afternoon, but now that it's Saturday, Ted busted me out of the house and took us to @pipsoriginal, because he knows the way to my heart is through travel-to-get-food. Even when it's only 4.5 miles across town. P.S. Fresh, hot, puffy banana custard mini doughnuts are a perfect antidote to rock hard ice and bitter cold. P.P.S. Remember that banana cream pie I made for Tuesday's canceled party? I'm not prepared to admit how much of it I ate since I was home alone while Ted was traveling for work…but let's say there's a line you cross when you go from eating 1/3 of a pie to 1/2 of a pie all by yourself. And I crossed it. And then some. And I'm still not sick of bananas or cream. Not by a long shot. #bethanylovesdoughnuts #pdxfoodie #travelportland #doughnutstories
I fell so behind with work, but again and again I tried reminding myself that time with Lucie and Marion was an opportunity not to be squandered. (It’s never quite that cut and dry reconciling ideals and pragmatics, though, is it?)
I did manage to make it out to my backyard studio a time or two, though, throughout the weather lock down.
It just doesn’t stop. Wave upon wave upon wave of life.
This time, little lethargic, feverish Marion collapsed into us for several days straight, temperature raging while the stubborn snow still refused to melt outside. Ted drove the icy route to urgent care at one point to rule out the worst, bringing doughnut reinforcements home as a small measure of optimism.
Ted indulged Lucie in favorite past times to keep her spirits up. (I think after all the missed hours of preschool, maybe she’s eligible to submit her independent study efforts to a beauty school for certification?)
When she wasn’t practicing ballet or styling hair, she was baking play dough cakes and taking turns singing Happy Birthday to each of us in turn. (Ohhhh…little does the September birthday girl know. She’s about to have three February celebrations hit boom, boom, boom: me, then Ted, then Marion.)
On the last, long afternoon before midnight rains started washing away the city’s snowy shackles, Lucie and I baked up a storm and filled the cookie jar. The birdseed we’d bought a few weeks before still laid buried in the feeder beneath the snow, and the empty little birdhouse hung lifeless out the front window.
But nevermind all that. That’s how it felt then, I know. I felt it all the way to my cold, tired bones.
But by the time I gathered photos and heard the rain falling on my metal studio roof, I paused this post. And I returned to it tonight, after yesterday’s dry streets and blue blue sky and bright sun rays.
Now I see, they weren’t so much about the storm, but how we weathered it together.
Yes, this post breaks all sorts of “rules” about too many photos and too many haphazard little bits and pieces. It doesn’t fit a packaged little mold. But sometimes images are more easily assembled than words, and I’d rather get the photos up and let the mind fill in the blanks than be left with entirely blank posts. Honestly, I love you so much for reading along. If you made it this far, go two extra scrolls down to the comment form and tell me: what’s your storm right now? Or, if you’d rather…what’s your sweet distraction from the storm? Hugs xx Bethany
Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai – Of course! First stop out the gate after 5,310 minutes straight stuck at home.
Half a dozen Heavenly Doughnuts – because Turkish Delight isn’t the only sugary downfall of broken souls.
Cowboy Cookie Recipe (well, “Cowgirl” if you ask Lucie)
That Banana Cream Pie.
Portland Needs a Better Strategy – the ugly side of an unprepared city.
A “Tale of Two Cities” read from Ted’s friend Bill Russell, at Union Gospel Mission – “There was empathy, and extraordinary efforts to protect people during the worst of the weather. We need to harness that empathy and come up with better solutions.”
The 451 Podcast – A listen for snowed-in souls in a topsy-turvy country.