A bearable Thanksgiving

Barracuda 3

What’s there to say about a Thanksgiving that was disrupted by a six-and-a-half-hour power outage? Only that, like the Pilgrims at Plymouth, we made the best of it, and filled our bellies in the end.

Margaret's porch 1

Fortunately, we hadn’t planned a large gathering, and so were just able to fit around my sister-in-law’s table in town.

It was a day that began with a fat porcupine squeezing under my front porch — which is something that never looks quite possible even while it’s happening — and ended with a very full toilet bowl that just barely managed to flush. And in between I got to see a black bear cub climbing a tree from only 100 feet away through a tangle of wild grapes. Both of us were too busy stuffing ourselves with grapes to notice the other at first. Then it started to rain, the cub went down the tree, and I closed the distance between us just in time to see the mother’s rear end disappearing into a thicket.

wild grapes

This was the fourth time we’ve had a power outage on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and also the fourth time we’ve seen a bear on a major holiday (the others were on Christmas and Easter). I guess I’m thankful to be living in a place where power outages are still rare enough to be remembered, but even if someday they become a routine occurence, the chances are good that we will still be sharing the mountain with bears and porcupines — and for that I am truly thankful.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

11 Comments


  1. A few years ago we had a power outage here on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, that year we were smoking our turkey in the smoker outside, and we’d already prepared a lot of food (the potatoes and squash, for instance, were already peeled and cubed and in pots full of water, ready to be cooked, so even though our well stopped delivering water to the house once the power was out, we were able to manage things.) We cooked brussels sprouts on cast-iron pans over the wood fire! By the time we were ready to eat, though, the power was back on again. The only casualty of the day was the challah I had made, which didn’t manage to get quite baked once the oven went dark…

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, by the by.

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  2. Thanks, and the same to you!

    It’s tempting to suggest that power outages occur more often on the big holidays because everyone is running their oven and taxing the grid. But in fact this outage was caused by a tree blowing down across the lines somewhere in the valley. I felt sorry for the guys who had to interrupt their own celebrations to go work on it.

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  3. oh Dave! the color of the possum grapes is exactly right, and they way your eyes fade everything else into black and white in response to your mouth’s anticipation.
    really nice capture!

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  4. Happy Thanksgiving Dave! I was in “your neck of the woods” last weekend for a conference. During the drive up I kept thinking about the acid rock situation but also how “easy” it’ll be to get to Penn State once that road is finished. Some of our group sat in traffic for over 3.5 hours due to three accidents – while traffic flowing out for the Nittany Lion away game and students traveling home for Thanksgiving break was bumper to bumper about 5 miles.
    Sunday morning featured a beautiful although treacherous for travel snowfall. We waited until after 9 am to begin the trip home and even then saw many a fender bender and run-off-the-road incident. have a great rest of the weekend and stay warm!
    hugs from PA – just a smidge south of ya
    Connie

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  5. Glad to read that you managed to have a good Thanksgiving celebration despite the power outage, dave. I would have been thankful just to get a glimpse of a black bear any day, anywhere. We’ve been limited to catching signs and sights of wildlife from our window these days. The neighborhood Red-shouldered Hawk paid us a visit on the neighbor’s roof; the Brown Pelicans sail past our window a few times a day, and we’re still seeing several kinds of butterflies. It is good to be reminded of what to be thankful for.

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  6. Thanks for the comments and holiday wishes.

    Cady May – I hadn’t heard “possum grapes” – a regional variant of the more general name “fox grapes,” I suppose? Whatever you call them, they have been unusually tasty this year. Glad you liked the photo – I had fun with that.

    Connie – Yes, I suppose it’ll be faster when I-99 is completed – unless fog and ice conditions on the ridge make it even more treacherous than the old highway in the valley. Some of us do feel that Penn State football traffic was a good part of the reason for building it in the first place (as opposed to simply widening and straightening 322).

    robin – We don’t see bears more than a half-dozen times a year ourselves, despite the abundant signs of their residence on the mountain. But for some reason they often show up when we have visitors, s0 if you and Roger ever make it out this way, who knows? You might get lucky.

    For us, of course, a red-shouldered hawk would be a fairly big deal – to say nothing of a pelican!

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  7. That’s right! Thanksgiving! That’s what all you guys have been doing for the past week or so… If I had listened harder I would have heard from across the sea right newar my home the sound of all those teeth masticating the leftovers.

    Thoush I don’t like Christmas celebrations very much, I’ve always respected and liked Thanksgiving. It seems like a dignified and genuine celebration in most cases.

    Though it must be hard for the bears and porcupines! Each house must look like a giant torte as they wander by…

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  8. Yeah, Thanksgiving is cool. Even though it does revolve around consumption of a sort, it’s managed to escape commercialization, by and large, and quite a number of people do take the thankfulness part of it seriously. Of course, the myth on which it is founded kind of puts a smiley face on a genocide, and large poultry operations are a horror scene, but aside from that…

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  9. Photoshoppery: in Hue/Saturation, you can saturate one color (in this case blue) while all but desaturating the others. (The more sophisticated way to do it, of course, would be to painstakingly select the area to be colorized with the lasso tool and use layers, but with my lousy hand-eye coordination, it would’ve taken me forever.) I also added the “film grain” filter.

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