I was halfway home before I could tell there had even been a storm. It was too dark to see the damage I hadn’t paid attention to on the news. White slush sat at the edges of the highway, like foam left behind on the sand after a wave retreats, but frozen in place.
No signs on the highway let me know the road would be closed. I pulled onto the exit ramp and rounded the bend. Up ahead, several floodlights illuminated the intersection. The stoplights were dark. It was beyond there that my headlights struck the orange sign barring my way. “Road Closed Seek Alternate Route.”
Mine wasn’t the only car to do a U-turn in front of that sign. I got back on the highway. Back the way I came for one exit then off again and a string of back roads home. A less direct route, but at least those roads were open.
Even with the high beams on, it was hard to see the road ahead. I was in the town adjacent to mine when I realized just how dark everything was. Though the way was shrouded in trees, there weren’t any limbs down in the road. But if I looked up from the street at all I would have seen the trees’ limbs weighted down until they kissed the ground at their own feet. A crisp layer of snow lines the length of each and every branch and twig, glued into place with a clear coat of ice. Deeper in the woods, out of sight, the weight has split trees, more thoroughly than the arrow split William Tell’s apple.
Finally I reached a thinned out settled area. It was eerie, lit only by the light reflected by the incomplete moon above and my headlights. The only buildings with lights of any kind are those big enough or vital enough to warrant emergency generators. The police station. The fire house. The grocery store. Some windows had the faint glow of candlelight within but it was too weak to reach beyond the shades and shutters.
As I passed into my town and the power remained out, I began to worry. My car was warm but I knew how cold it was on the other side of the windshield. We don’t have a fireplace or a wood-burning stove. The only place to make a fire is in the pit outside, buried beneath the same layers of snow and ice as everything else. I prepared to rush inside and bundle myself in blankets, quilts, and comforters after donning every warm article of clothing my closet contained.
There was only one more intersection before I reached my street. Coming to the top of a small hill, I saw it below, in a circle of light cast by the streetlamp on the corner. The streetlights beyond it were also alight and I breathed a sigh of relief as I passed from the dark quiet into the light and warmth of home.