Every winter, storms slam into the Pacific Coast. Trees crash. Land oozes. Roads close. These are the days when you realize what it means to live in a rural area such as La Honda.
The winter of 1982-83 was an El Niño event. (El Niño occurs when the Pacific Ocean is unusually warm, causing severe weather.) It began in November with a hurricane that devastated Hawaii and then, somewhat diminished, struck the West Coast.
At that time my children were ages six, four, and an infant. I was remodeling a house on the Stanford campus, where the storm was simply a wet inconvenience. They had electricity. They could drive to the shopping center without dodging fallen trees.
After the day's work, driving home into the mountains, I remember fierce waves of wind. Hail. Thunder and lightning. At home we had two Aladdin Lamps, four oil lamps, and various candles. A camp stove for cooking. We slept huddled together in front of the fireplace for warmth. By firelight, I wrote this:
The floorboards tremble.
Branches pelt the roof.
Rain blows under the door.
The phone, dead.
The electricity will be out for days.
I build a fire, light lanterns named Aladdin,
heat water in the fireplace,
play guitar, fetch wood, buy ice,
help the neighbor start her car.
My house from outside is a small spot of light
in a dark storm.
The power is out
but we are not powerless.