Thursday, March 31, 2011

Twenty-One Days - Day 22: The Day After

Life as we know it ended.

The grid went down, just ... like ... that [insert sound of snapping fingers]. We thought it was just a regular early spring storm. They predicted a Nor'easter, and it seemed odd for the time of year, especially with the amount of snow they were predicting (4" to 14" depending on one's location - more inland, they said). They warned there might be power outages.

It was just a snowstorm.


It should have been, but it was different. The snow wasn't so bad, except that financially strapped municipalities had a hard time keeping the plows running, and the unplowed roads prevented the electrical crews from restoring power, and from there it just seemed to snowball ... no pun intended. It wasn't funny.

For all of the forewarning we had, few people were really prepared. No one ever thought the end would come in the form of, an admittedly severe, storm, but still it was just weather. Since when is weather all that much to worry about - maybe in the short-term, but not ... forever?

The storm hit. The lights went out. No one panicked. We just did what we always did. But the lights didn't come back on, and then, we all ran out of gasoline, and, then ... It was like walking through thigh-deep snow without snowshoes. The snow looks solid enough, and sometimes, depending on the snowpack, the first step is okay, but with the next step the foot pushes through to the ground, and it's step, sink, pull up, step, sink, pull up, step, sink. It's exhausting. One thing failed, followed by the next, and the next, until we were left floudering on our backs in the snow, like a stuffed tick, completely vulnerable to the elements.

But just like everyone's been saying all along, life goes on. We were still alive, and so were our neighbors. Life started being different, but it wasn't over.

Deus Ex Machina and I just stayed home. We needed to boil sap anyway. With the prolonged warm days/cold nights trend we'd been having, the sap was flowing crazily, and we had a glut. Being seasonally-minded and recalling the previous year's dismal sap harvest, we decided to use as much as the gift was we were given.

We weren't really worried, because we've known, and we've been preparing - if not for exactly what we got, at least to live more simply and to be more self-sufficient. We've developed a resilient lifestyle that would have allowed us to survive just about anything.

Still, it got a little scary, even for us. I would have never believed such things possible in a developed country, and even when I read about the possibilities in all of the doomer novels I'd enjoyed over the years, I figured it was fiction - not real. No way, I always thought. We, civilized man, would not degenerate so quickly.

Luckily, I wasn't an eyewitness to any of it. Being here in suburbs, we were kind of isolated from the most of what was happening. No one bothered to come to the suburbs. There were no stores here, there was no food here, no gardens, no animals - just a bunch of nothing very useful without electricity or gasoline - just a bunch overstuffed houses where pencil-pushers lived with their pampered families.

We wondered what was happening, but we chose to stick close to home, keeping in mind that old wisdom curiosity killed the cat. Deus Ex Machina talked like he was going to go walk out and look around, and I said, "Not without me, you're not." He claimed it was too dangerous for me, and I said, "Exactly why you won't go alone, and why the girls and I can't come with you. Better to stay put."

After the first few ... what would we call them? Refugees? ... straggled through, looking like scared rabbits, all twitchy and agitated, we got together with the neighbors. First was to find the new folks a place to live. A young couple stayed in a tent on our front lawn for a few days. Other families gave the travelers lodging in sheds, in garages. A few lucky ones had extra bedrooms to offer.

There were times when the fear was palpable.

I proposed creating a deadfall across the road to camouflage it, or at least, eliminate the easy access. A lot of people protested that we wouldn't be able to get help that way, and I asked them, "What help?" I asked who they thought might be coming. "The National Guard?" I inquired. "You want a bunch of hungry and battle weary soldiers descending on us?" I looked toward a particularly haggard-looking recent addition to our community. "You think they might help us?" As my voice raised to a hawk-worthy screech, Deus Ex Machina grabbed my arm and gave me that look that told me I'd said enough, so I took a deep breath and asked quietly, "What help do we need?"

And invited everyone over to my house, where we made a huge fire in the front yard, and started canning part of the meat we had in our freezer, and serving the rest with the wild greens that Deus Ex Machina and a few willing-to-learn neighbors foraged. Everyone left with a full belly, a few jars of canned meat, and a greater understanding of what was possible if we banded together as a community.

Deus Ex Machina and I were lucky. We knew it was coming. We'd been forewarned and had heeded that other bit of old wisdom that tells us forewarned is forearmed.

We armed ourselves - with knowledge, mostly - but also with tools to help make the transition not so rocky. And because we were prepared, and we'd been planning and practicing, we were also able to help our neighbors, because what would be the use of surviving, if we had to do it all alone? Humans are pack animals. We need each other, and as we watched our food stores quickly depleting and contemplated a hungry season, we smiled, knowing that if misery really does love company, at least we weren't alone :). Together, though, working together with our neighbors and friends, we figured we'd probably be okay.

One of the best things we did in our preps was reading the fictitious accounts of TEOTWAWKI by other visionaries of our time. While the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it predictions in the novels were nothing like our reality, they did serve as very valuable thought exercises in the sense that it got us thinking, "What would we do if ...?"

As a gift to my online community I would like to offer one person the choice of one of several of the TEOTWAWKI novels that got me thinking. The choices are:

If you would like to enter the drawing for one of the books above, please leave a comment with the title you would like. Please note this is not a drawing for *each* book, but rather a random drawing of one person who will win the book of his/her choice :).


The winner of the Johnny Seed gift certificate is Kate. Please leave a comment with your contact info. Comments are moderated and I won't post your address.


  1. Wow! I won something! Awesome! Thank you so much!

    Also, great post. I've been reading along with every one of your 21-days posts. I will admit that it hasn't spurred me into direct action, but it has added several items to my various lists: project list, skills acquisition list, and shopping list. Thanks for the great series. Will send my info separately.

  2. You know I love books. Sign me up for a book. I've had "Dies the Fire" on the wish list for awhile now.

  3. Yay books! Count me in. (If I can win more than once.)

    Nice set of posts, it's been fun.
    I think you've hit the right tone with your End post too. It's likely not going to come crumbling down with a bang, but more like a whimper.

  4. World Made By Hand sounds interesting.

    Yesterday I stopped at the library and picked up Alas, Babylon. I loved One Second After so we will see how it goes.

  5. Oh, I would love to win a copy of A World Made by Hand. It has been on my to-read list for a while. When I started reading this post I thought for a minute it was reality, as I am sitting here waiting for a big early spring storm to hit...

  6. I've already read the Road, but I'd love one of the other books. Although dh might not like me adding to my already huge book collection. :)

  7. Patrice, check out this link. Fact is often stranger than fiction ;).

  8. Awesome post today, Wendy. Heck, I might ask hubby to read it, to perhaps kick him into gear. Your series (the 21 days) has been inspiring. I do like your positive spin on things, too. I think that's what we need to keep making steps in the right direction.

    World Made by Hand looks great. :)


  9. I've never read Eternity Road, might be a good read as I watch the snow pile up around the house.ARg...we were just starting to see grass.

  10. I just received my ordered copy of your book through amazon here in the UK. I am enjoying reading it as I feel I know you through this blog,and I like the fact that you are adopting these ideas in your everyday life and not just writing about them.

  11. World Made by Hand has been on my list for awhile now, but thanks for the suggestions for some others - I'm always on the lookout for fictional accounts of TEOTWAWKI, and two of those I hadn't heard of.