Ice Storm by Kay Hartsock

February 26, 2021

Sangha member Kay Hartsock lives on a small farm outside of Aurora, south of Portland. Her power went off for an extended period of time during the recent snow and ice storm. This is her diary.


Ice storm
Branches encased in icy caskets,
Boughs bent heavy with weight
Crackling sounds as limbs break.
The sun warms the wintry wrappings.
Drips drop,
Falling to the ground and arising as the morning mist.
Water into water.
Day 1

Heeding the Weather Service warning about a coming ice storm, I fill every available vessel with water, making sure there are buckets in the bathroom for flushing. I also gather candles, kerosene lamps, flashlights and matches (that brilliant and simple “technology”). At about 4 pm, the power shuts off as the storm rages. This is the third time in six weeks that we’ve lost power in this rural area.

Scout Motto: Be Prepared. When we built this house, we put in a hand pump and two propane stoves – one in the kitchen for cooking and another in our bedroom that can heat that during the day, I never leave it on at night. My cell phone is for emergency use only. Its weak battery can get charged with my electric car, but it takes a few hours.

Day 2

Everything is covered in thick ice. It’s not safe to walk outside for fear of falling (I’m reminded of the “god realm” in Chenrezi practice).

I spend much of the daylight making sure there are no tripping hazards to hamper me in the dark and also arranging things so they are easy to find…realizing this is going to go on for a a while.

Day 3

Usually I have at least one Zoom meeting a day and I’m missing them.

The sound of melting ice sliding off the roof and crashing to the ground is unnerving, but welcome.

Neighbors show up to check on me and pump water. We fire up a small generator that I bought four years ago but never used. We make a plan to share it between four households.

Day 4

Wondering what the news is about the power grid repair, but saving my cell phone only for emergencies and check-ins with friends.

I left my AM/FM radio at the monastery in Mirik, India last year. We use them for Lama Eric’s translations during seminars, but I knew I wouldn’t need it during the next six weeks traveling around India.

Then I remember: “Oh I brought a radio to Taiwan a few years ago for the Yidam Seminar there. Maybe I can find it.” And I did. And the batteries still work! Oh so grateful for NPR and KBOO! The wonders of radio waves. My long-ago Master’s thesis in Environmental Studies was a proposal that bandwidth (radio waves, etc.) were a natural resource! Hahaha. My advisors thought I was crazy – they weren’t wrong, of course, but I’m still proud of that thesis. In the 70s, when half-inch videotape became available, I was part of the Guerrilla Television Movement that hoped for universal access to cameras and radio/television waves. We argued that this would help all people share their experiences virtually. Now we have our cellphone cameras but bandwidth availability is still an issue.

NPR just had a long program about the “Bandwidth Superhighway” getting way overcrowded with the advent of cell phones. There was a huge “Spectrum Auction” during which large equity firms bought up many small TV stations and their frequencies.

Day 5

I go outside to watch the sunset. Coyotes howl all around. Sounds like hundreds of them. Getting used to crawling under the covers as soon as it gets dark and getting up when the sun comes up.


–Continued here from March Newsletter–

Day 6

Decided to drive south to the pharmacy where I hope to get my first vaccine dose tomorrow. It was impossible to go the usual route. Power poles and wires litter the road. Huge fallen trees suddenly appear around one of the many rural curves, dangerously blocking the road. I drive very slowly and find a circuitous route to Woodburn.

Arrive at the pharmacy and it is dark. Patrons and workers walk down aisles with cell phone flashlights. The freezers are emptied out. Cars and trucks are backed up on 99E because there are no traffic lights.

Day 7

My vaccine is scheduled for noon. Haven’t had a shower in a week. I figure no one else has either. So thankful to the workers and I say so: “Thank you so much for working!” Their faces light up and they say, “Thank you for saying that.” Feeling more connected to people because we all see our suffering – yet it is so much less than elsewhere in the world. Compassion and camaraderie abound.

Day 8

My dear (now gone) husband planted a beautiful corkscrew willow on our 25th anniversary. It has grown and flourished and given so much joy and beauty over the past 14 years. I feel sorrow when I see that it has been uprooted by the weight of ice on its branches and now lies in a huge bundle of orange and yellow. I grieve its colorful ribbons of leafy vines. I ask my friends for advice when they come to get the generator and pump water.

Day 9

My friends show up with saws, chains, and a tractor to trim the heavy weight of the willow branches and hoist it back up into its homey hole where it now stands, supported by stakes and ropes – fewer limbs but with an upright trunk that will, we hope, continue to suck up the earth’s nourishment and feed the long lines of sometimes green and then red-orange leaves that sway and celebrate “we will survive” (at least for a while).

Still no electricity. Still listening to the radio and the coyotes.

After sunset, through the blackberry hedgerow, I see the flashing lights and roaring engine of a big truck on the road. A PGE repair rig, I hope.

The moon is waxing gibbous. Va a llena as we say in Spanish. It’s getting full.

Day 10

9:25 am: a bit of sun and blue sky appear among the clouds. This will be a good time to haul more water from the pump. I send good wishes to all those who must spend much of their day carrying water from distant rivers or wells to their families – mostly women and children.

My propane tank is running low. It will be at least a week before a truck comes to this area to refill tanks. I turn off my little propane stove and put on gloves, more socks and sweaters.

A five-minute phone check to see if there are any urgent messages that I must heed and/or respond to. My electric car is running out of its battery so I must conserve.

NPR says there are still 62,000 homes without power. I wonder how unhoused people are managing. I send good and warm wishes.

Day 11

I decided to go to a hotel last night. PGE says it could be another week before we get power back here.

I find myself automatically flicking on a light switch or turning on a water spigot and realize my body does this so automatically…it wakes me up and I pray, “May all beings be free of suffering.”

Feeling anxious and helpless. Both of my children are going through difficult times.

Reading the Miraculous 16th Karmapa that Carolyn Peck sent to me. Thankful.

Day 12

Exhausted from being cold, hauling water and not having lights. I’m especially missing connection with friends via internet…feeling a bit low. How long is this going to go on? Of course, I know that most of the world lives like this all the time, so I try to “buck up.” Suddenly, the lights go on!! Thank you all you valiant souls who have been out 24 hours a day working to restore power! Hooray for PGE!

Still no WiFi but I’ll see you soon!