November 14, 2008
At Last, The Wind Dies Down
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a tiny ant standing in the direct blast of a hair dryer, I do believe the last 24 hours in Nederland would be a close approximation. Unrelenting, sustained gusts of 80 mph slammed our little mountain town beginning on late Wednesday afternoon and before the front finally conceded to the plains this morning, we had lost two lodgepole trees (one of which narrow missed our house) and gained all manner of detritus in our driveway.
I have spoken before of Nederland's winter winds, sinking air pressure rushing off the divide, raking our valley in a maddening rush. It is easy to forget, from June till November, the experience of bending low from the waist to walk (or simply just walking backwards), of grasping the car door to keep the hinges from breaking clean off, of donning ski goggles to walk Stella. Every Spring Jim and I talk of installing a bank of PVs to offset our electricity usage and forget that come late autumn, a wind turbine would not only be more efficient but more intuitive. I can't imagine the kW we could have generated over the last 24 hours.
It started Wednesday morning as a diffuse white front sitting immobile on the divide. The Arapahoe Peaks were still visible for most of the morning, the wall of white a solid backdrop behind them. About 2pm, the wind picked up, pushing the lodgepoles around, but not yet with enough force to make the house creak or sing. I started dinner early, a four hour beef stew, to the odd sound of shoreline. Waves of wind crashed against the house like breakers as I dissembled a five pound chuck. Nothing out of the ordinary. After putting the stew in the oven, Stella and I set out for West Magnolia to meet Dawn (and Fergus, the Argentinian Speed Racer, and Tess, a petite Border Collie) for a walk in the mostly tree cloistered National Forest. We were a bit chapped by the time we got back to the car and it was full darkness, but Stella was happy and I felt geared for stew.
Driving the three miles back home, however, the Egg whipped about on the road. The wind was picking up and my teeth began to ache, a sure sign of weather.
We slept fitfully Wednesday night, the house loudly popping and straining. The western side of the house pushed inward with a groan at each gust and the eastern side of the house cracked in a serious a short staccatto burts outward in the vacuum left behind. The electricity sputtered off and on and off and on, accompanied each time by the BEEP of the cordless phone. Every so often there would be a loud "CRACK" which would startle me out of a shallow sleep, but which appeared to be nothing more than a superficial protest.
We woke up yesterday morning to a mad world of lodgepole pines whipping about in crazy, random motion and dirt flying horizontally down our road. Even though sunshine poured above the house, the peaks were now gone, obscured by the white front. The house was now in constant, vocal defense, creaking and popping with each wave of wind. We looked out the back door to find a lodgepole had snapped and come down just a few feet from the house and a smaller, superficial pine had snapped deeper in the stand. When Jim walked Stella, he discovered across the road a very large and well established lodgepole downed, the remaining stump split violently. We've been in this house nearly four years now and this is the first year we're seeing lodgepoles fall with such regularity. This is also the first summer we saw the first inkling of widespread beetle kill. I don't think this is a coincidence.
Jim and I hunkered down in the house yesterday as the world about continued its kinetic madness. We drank copious amount of caffeine and threw a tennis ball for Stella down the hall in an effort to give her a little bit of interior exercise. My teeth throbbed in time with the wind. Every so often we would look out the window to watch the front's slow progression over the divide, marking the miles slowly till it would overtake Nederland and our house. Finally, at about 7, we heard the tap tap tap of tiny frozen snow balls on our roof. The clouds had finally reached us.
Last night was less violent and by the time I woke up this morning, the world was once again still. Stella and I walked down to the end of the road to survey the damage and find what the front had left for us in the yard. We discovered a heavy, steel tipped snow shovel (score!) and some crushed plastic 2 liter bottles. Last year winter weather delivered to our house a crumpled twenty dollar bill and a brand new flash thumb drive, still in its plastic, clam shell packaging. I am waiting to discover a brand new Prius blown wayward into our yard. It could happen.
Even though it is quiet today, I know this week's wind is just the beginning of winter and that I should relish the relief today. It really is, after all, more of the exception than the rule.
November 4, 2008
Today Is The Day. Now Is The Time.
The day has finally arrived for all Americans to step up to the plate and swing for history. We've been registered to vote in record numbers this year and there is a giddy fever of enthusiasm and hope that I, personally, haven't felt in years. Jesus, it is long overdue.
I don't think for a minute that today's election will go smoothly or easily. Considering the long lines encountered in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and even Georgia for early voting, we should expect the system to be overwhelmed with record turnout. Already Colorado's Attorney General has stated there there is no way the state can finish counting its absentee and early ballots before Wednesday at the earliest. There is a distinct possibility that we will go to bed tonight night not yet knowing who will be the next President of the United States.
What is for certain, however, is that today women are able to vote. African-Americans are able to vote. No one will have to pay taxes to qualify to vote. You will not have to own land to cast your ballot. You will not be prohibited to vote because of advanced age. Come January, if American history serves us well, there will be a peaceful, bloodless transfer of power. We take this for granted, but need only look beyond our door to see that this tradition is exceptional.
If you haven't already, I just want to encourage you to get up and exercise your precious right to vote, even if your preferred presidential candidate is not mine. We've worked very hard to get to this place in time and we should be very proud of our process. Is it flawed? You betcha! But every single American individual has a role to play, in making history and shaping the course to come. Is it a rough road? Yes. But not only can we survive as a nation, we can flourish with compassion and pride. Yes. We. Can.
Before leaving for your polling place, please review your rights. People for the American Way has compiled a state by state list of local election laws (for instance, what forms of ID may be required). Take a few minutes to check out the voting information for your state HERE!
Please do not hesitate to speak up at your polling place if you encounter any irregularities. If you feel as if you have been unfairly treated at the polls or if the conditions are untenable, please feel free to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE and report your concerns.
Please make sure you are at the correct voting location by checking with your state's Division of Elections website, or check here for a state by state directory of election contacts. If you are asked to cast a provisional ballot instead of an official ballot, please resist and question the authorities at hand till you are satisfied you are at the correct polling place (they will not tell you where you should be voting, only that you are not on their voter roll and if you fill out a provisional ballot outside your registered precinct, it will NOT COUNT). In 2004, having recently moved to a new Boulder neighborhood, I accidentally waited in line for three hours at an elementary school that had a very similar name to my newly registered precinct voting location. They would not give me an official ballot because I was, of course, not on their voting roll, but they did give me a provisional ballot, something I knew absolutely nothing about. First, they assured me that it would count once they figured out where the error was. Then, they pressured me to fill it out because I was holding up the line (there were now six or seven of us with provisional ballots in hand). Three people who could not be found on the voter roll gave up and filled out their provisional ballots, not wanting to be considered a pain in the ass and not wanting to wait to see what the problem was. The rest of us held firm. When they threatened us that if we spent anymore time on the issue, we would be considered a "menace" (and this was in uber-liberal Boulder), a very kind gentleman behind me in line suggested that I look at the precinct map to make sure I was at the correct voting location. Sure enough, my address put me at an entirely different precinct and I was at the wrong voting location. That was the case with the other folks with provisional ballots as well. We dispersed to our other voting locations and once I was at the correct elementary school, there was a ballot waiting for me. In a single moment, my vote could have been wasted. You have a right to vote and a right for it to be counted.
Please bring water and a snack with you when you go to vote. If the lines are long, you do not want to run the risk of dehydrating or low blood sugar. If you have a folding lawn chair, do bring that as well (even if you don't need it, there may be an elderly person who may). Bring a book. Bring knitting. Bring a movie on your iPod. Bring five friends with you. Bring your good humor.
Most of all, bring patience and pride in knowing that you are participating in making the United States the country that it is.
This is a tweak/re-post of yesterday's Flutter Effect election coverage.