From the Journal: Mountain Farm Life

by Sara Aranda

Having slightly fallen off the personal blog band-wagon, I wanted to create more of an intimate space with the content I’ve scribbled over the years. From the Journal will be a new series of excerpts from my journal writings. The following entry is what I first wrote about after Patrick and I moved into the mountainous foothills of Loveland, CO.

May 19, 2017

An ode?
Yesterday:

Patrick kneels into the mattress and leans over me.
“Sara,” he whispers. I open my eyes slow—“The power keeps going in and out.”
“Ah,” I mumble, “that’s why I keep hearing my phone buzz.”
“Yeah. There’s a full-on blizzard outside.”

7:30 A.M. The power shuts off and stays off. I hear Patrick running up the stairs to wake up Phil. One hoop house is buried, collapsed. The other is still standing, but only accumulating weight.

8:30 A.M. They both try to shake off the snow from the second hoop house, but Phil’s broom keeps bursting through the old hail net. They decide to cut the net off; the snow is coming down too fast. Thankfully, nothing had been planted in the beds for the season.

Only one generator is working. The indoor plants are in danger of freezing. Patrick and Phil take off in the Subaru to get phone signal five and a half miles away, near Pinewood Reservoir (with my phone, since I have Verizon). The task is to call the power plant for information. Lisa’s home dialysis machine is out of battery power.

3:00 P.M. I’ve been napping, trying not to worry about the guys being gone for two and a half hours. Suddenly, Patrick is calling my name from the front door with urgency; I wake, rush from the bedroom.

“We’re trapped,” is all I selectively hear. “I’ll tell you everything later, but I have to go—” and he’s running off back down the hill.

I know nothing, which terrifies me. Is he hurt? Is his adrenaline keeping him powered? The Wilderness First Responder in me starts to worry way too much. I try to nap more; thirty minutes pass. I begin imagining Phil’s stupid, frozen jeans and jean coat leading him slowly towards hypothermia. I imagine the car buried deep in a ditch. I can’t lie down anymore; I gear up, pack the waterproof bag with extra layers for the boys and a zero-degree-F sleeping bag. Why not? Lace up the snow boots, velcro the gaiters, adjust my snow pants and rain coat. One liter of water, headlamp, hiking poles, emergency blankets, small First-Aid—I think I’m overreacting. But worrying is making me nauseous.

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I trek into the blizzard, follow Patrick’s fading footprints down the quarter-mile driveway. When I reach the main road his footprints disappear, but I hike in the direction of the Reservoir. It’s honestly beautiful out. I de-layer from my fleece. The flurries stop. The sky is quiet. Pads of snow are flexed off the pine trees. Elk and deer tracks meander about the embankments, up and down such wondrous mountain slope.

I don’t know how long I’ve been walking. With every switchback I envision finding the Subaru, but I never do. I finally make it to the paved road where all the mailboxes are. A plow drives by, passes me twice as I walk along the shoulder. I’m at least two and a half miles from the house when I hear a tree fall nearby, somewhere behind the echo. The crash is sudden and so is the silence that follows it.

I’m doubting my rescue mission. Now knowing they are potentially stuck closer to other people’s houses on this paved road makes me feel borderline ridiculous. But I trudge on, start walking in the road after the plow.

A large pickup I don’t recognize backs onto the road from Jim’s driveway. Phil and Patrick are inside, Patrick at the wheel. He waves.

“What are you doing out here? Hop in,” Phil says, opening the passenger door. I cramp into the back bench seat.

“What the hell is going on? I was worried you two were injured,” I assert.
“I’m sorry love,” Patrick says.

He fills me in: When they reached the Reservoir parking lot, the Subaru’s transmission wouldn’t shift into park. They managed to turn the car off, but then, it wouldn’t turn back on. They were without heat. They called AAA, waited for two hours. No one showed up. They called again and the person set to respond to their call hadn’t even left town yet. So they called Janet (Jim’s wife) and she arrived in her pickup. Phil called a mechanic and explained his situation. The mechanic offered some tricks to try over the phone. One of them worked; the Subaru was alive. Patrick hopped in with Janet as Phil led the way back home—but Phil’s defroster doesn’t work, and so, while recklessly wiping the windshield with a rag, he drove himself into a ditch. Patrick couldn’t help but laugh with frustration as he watched the Subaru casually nose-dive. Janet didn’t have a tow strap in her truck. Patrick dropped off Janet at her home and continued up the road to Phil’s. He couldn’t get up the driveway with all the snow, so he hiked up instead, grabbed a tow-strap from the garage, shouted briefly into the house; took off.

Apparently, the tow strap nearly pulled the pickup into the ditch as well. Having decided to deal with the Subaru after the storm, I caught them on their way back.

~~~

We light the wood stove. Candles. Heat up some food. The power comes on but only lasts ten minutes. Garlic bread. Salad. We feast. Phil is dehydrated, downs a glass of vanilla tequila. I read, chat, remain present. The snow continues to build itself up out there. The roof sheds every once in a while, shakes the whole house, buries the stairs outside, along with the shovel Phil left there.

The detachment from electricity and the internet is a welcome reminder of how present and simple the function of life can be. Patrick pulls a log and adds it to the flames, sits beside me in silent reverence.

 

Today:

8:00 A.M. Lisa is nearing her limit for a lack of dialysis treatment. Her and Phil both feel incredibly unprepared, having no spare batteries for her machine and for having only one working generator. I’ll say. If only Patrick and I knew, but we’ve only been here a month.

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Patrick and I spend the morning melting snow on the wood stove. The snow here is so airy, it takes forever to gather a worthy amount to use. We cook up some eggs. The storm seems to be clearing, so we shovel off the Jeep and put on tire chains. Unfortunately, we only own one set; the Jeep slides around in deep circles. Nevermind. Janet’s truck is still at the bottom of the driveway. Phil and Patrick build a makeshift sled and haul the broken generator down, drive it into town to get it fixed, buy more fuel.

~~~

All the indoor plants might die. The plants are the business. The one generator has been allocated to heating that space. Patrick had to rise every three hours last night to refill it. Weeks of work have been ripped away from him.

“I hate riding the edge. If anything more happens, we’re fucked,” he states. But there is always laughter despite the stress of life for Patrick and me. The edge is where all the learning tends to happen anyway, doesn’t it? I understand his stress. We haven’t actually made any money yet, so the current crop truly means everything.

“At least we have good gear. It’s priceless right now; it really is. We can get anywhere on foot if we have to,” he adds with a smile.

Phil and Lisa fight quite often. They’re in their sixties and their lives are incredibly complicated. We can hear them through the ceiling (we live below them). They dig their heels into the wood floor and shout with reflex. Dishes are aggressively emptied from the dishwasher and slammed into the cupboards. I look at Patrick, appreciate how we communicate, how we at least seem to make such a calm team.

“I hope we never turn into that,” I tell him.
“We won’t,” he says, without hesitation. He takes my forearm and begins to gently massage it. We stare out the window, past the dilapidated hoop houses and out into the white woods. So quiet and bright. Our time here has only begun.

The power flashes. Stays on. Humming fridge and blinking WiFi router. I immediately sense the anxiety of having to, once again, actively choose to be more present and detached from the internet in my life. I wince at the glare off the snow—how easy it is for me to engage with these modern privileges.

The ode is now felt as something brief. It is over because, I suppose, time and circumstance would eventually have it be that way. The plants are alive. Yet, my fascination with this time devoid of power comes to me with blatant shame and naivete. Is “a day in the life” of me even worth writing about? What is ever gained by these simple and often immature portraits I paint?

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