Monday, October 31, 2011

Power down

As I write this on Sunday evening, we’ve been without power for fourteen hours. This is very rare for us; I can’t remember a time since my childhood that we went for more than about six or eight hours without power, and even those events have happened only two or three times in the past decade, as far as I can recall. But this time, with a heavy wet snowfall on Saturday night pulling down power lines all over the state, we are facing the kind of situation we usually hear about but avoid: already a full day and evening, and potentially several more to come, without electricity.

And I have to admit, I’m finding it hard to think of anything to say about it that isn’t a cliché. Everything positive about power outages has already been said by the many who experience them more often than we do, and yet now that it’s our turn, I’m finding them all to be true: the way it’s made us focus on the simpler things in life – reading by candlelight, savoring a grilled cheese sandwich made over a gas burner – the fact that it has imposed upon us a mandatory hiatus from our Internet connections, with the constant chatter of email and Facebook; the strange reality that all four of us are sitting together on the couch in front of the fireplace reading or writing, rather than dispersed into four different parts of the house, engaged in four different activities. Even the dog seems to want nothing more than to sit in front of the fire, gazing into the flames.

Because this kind of crisis happens to us so rarely, I’m admittedly a little lax when it comes to the fundamentals of emergency preparedness. But this storm has taught me that what I’ve done in that realm is apparently good enough, at least for the first fourteen hours of a power outage. The half-dozen bottles of water stored in a cupboard have been enough so far for drinking and washing up. We had batteries for all the flashlights, and all the flashlights were easy to find in their usual places. We have candles and matches. Because it’s still autumn and because it’s our first year of living in a home with a fireplace, we hadn’t stored firewood yet, but the logs we sawed this morning from tree limbs that fell into our driveway during the storm ignited fairly easily and have kept us warm. It’s reassuring to know that even without scurrying around preparing for a storm, we’re pretty well equipped to manage one, although I should also admit that not until this evening have I understood why people fill bathtubs and washing machines, and I’ll remember to do that in the future.

Waking this morning to the not unexpected realization that we were without power, my first thoughts were of the many duties I would not have to do today; a rush of welcome laziness swept over me, and I slept an hour later than I usually allow myself. I also keep thinking how relieved I am that this situation is the result of a weather system and not, say, a terrorist attack or an earthquake, something with far more profound implications than a simple snowstorm. Sunday was one of the most peaceful days I’ve had in months, maybe even in years. Rick and I cleared limbs and sawed logs together all morning; the kids, absent their usual temptations of TV and video games, shoveled snow together and then put my iPod on speaker and danced.

Later, we went to my parents’ house and played card games. In the late afternoon, my mother and Tim and I took a walk up to the soccer fields and around the cemetery. Back home, the four of us warmed ourselves around the fire.

It will get more challenging as the days pass, if the power isn’t soon restored. I won’t feel so peaceful or tranquil if I’m unable to meet my work responsibilities due to our Internet connection being down. (Even as I write this blog entry, it’s with the awareness I’ll have to find a hot spot to post it if we’re still lacking electricity in the morning.) But for now, all is dark and quiet. Tim remarked on the visibility of stars in the sky with no house lights around to detract from their glow. Like a 19th-century family, we all went to bed early, when the cold and dark simply made it unappealing to be up any later.

It’s all been said before. But this time, I had the chance to find out for myself what it was like. And for now, it’s a very serene moment in time for us.

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