Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bill Hastings

The AEP trucks that were all over town have mostly disappeared now, leaving us with as much heat and light as we can afford to pay for inside our house while outside the snow and ice continue to decorate the Christmas tree, still in its stand, that we got as far as our deck. It seems to me that snow has fallen every Monday night since December, but maybe that's just when I notice it because I have symphony rehearsal on Monday nights.

I'm grateful that we have power, especially since the radio just informed me that the wind chill tonight will feel like 15 below. I've been thinking about a passage from the novel Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (which I found otherwise forgettable) in which a character says "There's no doubt in my mind that certain temperaments do better in some climates than others."

But I am grateful, oh yes indeed I am--daily, now--to have power in this climate. My recently renewed feeling of gratitude for electricity--along with the uncharacteristic advice I got last night from my daughter's former gifted teacher about how to get her through college and into a well-paying job as fast as possible--makes me think of this 1990 poem by Todd Jailer entitled "Bill Hastings":

Listen to me, college boy, you can
keep your museums and poetry and string quartets
'cause there's nothing more beautiful than
line work. Clamp your jaws together
and listen:
It's a windy night, you're freezing the teeth out
of your zipper in the ten below, working stiff
jointed and dreaming of Acapulco, the truck cab.
Can't keep your footing for the ice, and
even the geese who died to fill your vest
are sorry you answered the call-out tonight.
You drop a connector and curses
take to the air like sparrows who freeze
and fall back dead at your feet.
Finally you slam the SMD fuse home.
Bang! The whole valley lights up below you
where before was unbreathing darkness.
In one of those houses a little girl
stops shivering. Now that's beautiful,
and it's all because of you.

So thank you, unnamed AEP workers who got our power back on after the icepocalypse last week. We waved to you when you parked in front of our house, but you were busy. I think of you when I feel sullen because the ice still won't go away, and I try to call up the memory of that joy I felt when you first slammed that fuse home or whatever it was you had to do to make our lives liveable again.


Karen said...

Love it, Jeanne.

Go drink some hot cocoa. It's the best I can offer, as February drags on.

Harriet M. Welsch said...

Whereas I just start singing "Wichita Lineman" in such situations.

Jeanne said...

Karen, good idea. And I need ideas from people who don't hate the cold as much as I do (now that Carol has adopted a northern sensibility that's everyone up here)!

Harriet, thanks for the earworm! And for making me laugh out loud.

Anonymous said...

Okay, now I have to know what the advice was --

Jeanne said...

ReadersGuide, oops I'm not writing clearly. The advice was to get Eleanor through college as quickly as possible in a way that allows her to get a well-paying job. This is an incredibly over-educated mother of adult children who has taught my daughter and thinks she's brilliant. Despite all this, her advice is basically to regard college as trade school.

FreshHell said...

Love the poem. It snowed every single Tuesday, I think in January. We now have a lovely reprieve for a bit. I'm making the most of it. And sending warm thoughts your way.

I never take electricity for granted after living in the country where it can go out for...no reason at all! Never mind bad weather.

Jeanne said...

FreshHell, thanks for the warm thoughts. I believe I'm going to call this week in February "blowtorch wish week," because every year I wish for one to melt where I want to walk. Also, the cold just makes me feel dragon-ish.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like good advice to me!

Ella said...

I love this poem!

Back in 08 I was staying with my parents (and my baby & toddler) when they got whomped by an ice storm and lost power for 8 days. I felt like a caveperson by the time the electricity got turned back on - I remember basking in the glory of the flush toilet for DAYS afterwards.

Jeanne said...

Ella, we lost power after Hurricane Ike for 9 days, and well remember that feeling of living in a cave. But it sounds like you had it much worse--we still have working toilets and a functioning hot water heater when the electricity goes out.