Groundhog Day with Kentucky Family Robinson

So here we are in Louisville, KY in the wee morning hours of Groundhog Day and in the wake of a devastating ice/snow storm that has felled countless massive trees, killed a dozen people, and knocked out power to nearly a million residents of the bluegrass state – some of whom won’t have it restored until mid-February. It just so happens for the past week or two I’ve been editing (or struggling to edit, weather permitting) the short YERT video about, you guessed it, Kentucky. The irony is almost as thick as the sparkling inch of ice coating everything in sight – though I will confess, I love interesting weather and it is certainly reassuring to see winter rear her head in such a memorable way.

Luckier than most of our neighbors, we were only fully without electricity in our house for a little over two days, the second of which we spent at a friend’s house. Still, even twenty-four hours without power in 15 degree weather while in charge of a new baby is enough to make you start to feel a little like Swiss Family Robinson. Ordinarily a massive power failure is a wonderful excuse to turn off the TV, unplug the computer, light a fire and play some cards or some other pastime that calls for actual human interaction. It humbles us before mother nature and reminds us of our shared humanity in a beautiful way. But unfortunately our fireplace here is not functional these days and, for whatever reason, we’ve been a little too stressed to fully appreciate “going camping inside.” So the cards and Pictionary stayed put away and we busted out the hand-cranked LED flashlights and simply tried to stay warm and sleep…and tried to get some work done when we could.

Mostly (almost inevitably) the spectacular beauty and devastation wrought by this ice storm – and it has produced both in spades – has me thinking about how much of this “life without readily accessible power” is in our collective future. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of the current economic climate, or maybe the actual climate climate, or maybe it’s the next door neighbor’s diesel generator running 24/7, but lately every natural disaster that temporarily debilitates our electrical grid feels like a dress rehearsal for the “real thing.” It’s as if nature keeps offering us chances to come face to face with our hypnotic dependence on “cheap and easy power” – to finally snap out of it and overhaul our backward power-hungry “civilization” while we still can – but we’re all too clueless to see it for the wake up call it is. Certainly, it’s been encouraging to witness and experience neighbor looking after neighbor and to know that even during trying circumstances the ability of a community to improvise and muddle through is inspiring. But I do wonder if we’re really ready as a species for the long haul that awaits humanity when most fundamental things that we take for granted start disappearing or falling apart. Is it too much to hope that natural disasters will put us in touch with the boneheaded mistakes we keep making again and again until one day we finally stop banging our head against the wall and learn enough from them to reform our selfish….wait a second, isn’t there a movie like that?

Which brings me to Groundhog Dayone of my favorite movies of all time – and quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays. How can you not love a holiday built around forecasting the remaining length of winter based on a large rodent popping out of its hole (or, these days, being plucked out) and either seeing or not seeing its shadow – with, I might add, 39% historical accuracy (that’s 11% worse than simply guessing)? The forecast calls for clouds tomorrow/today in Punxsutawney, PA. So, what’ll it be, Punxsutawney Phil – an early Spring? These days, that sounds like a blessing…and a curse. Of course, I can take solace in the fact that there’s a 61% chance little Phil is wrong, and winter soldiers on for another six weeks – which, these days, sounds like a curse…and a blessing. For now, it’s time to crawl back into my little Kentucky Family Robinson hole here and try to get some sleep. Power’s back on…for now. Which, these days, sounds like a blessing…and…you know…

warmly,
-Ben

Update 1:32pm:
This just in: A baby named “Yert” – yes, YERT – is being born on Groundhog Day as we speak. I kid you not!! Feel free to post congratulations to the lucky couple (Josh and Mary Kate) on their new-parent blog, Procreation Station. What are the odds?

Update 11:04am:
Punxsutawney Phil has officially “seen” his shadow which means we should have six more weeks of winter. That is, there’s a 39% chance that we will have six more weeks of winter…and a 61% chance that we won’t. Oh, whatever.

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