In the dark

After spending the last 30 hours without electricity due to the tornadoes that swept the area (after giving thanks that we had no damage to property or person), I’ve learned the following:

  • Someone has to be last to have their power restored (we were among the last 200 households in Northern Virginia), and if you hear chainsaws late at night, they are probably not being operated by your neighbors.
  • Children are calmer when there is no electricity. Probably due to lower expectations; there’s less to demand. We weren’t opening the refrigerator to keep the food cold, couldn’t use electronics, and there were no lamps to enable play at night.
  • Reading and writing by candlelight are not romantic; though for the few first minutes you feel like you’re in Dr. Zhivago, it’s not worth the eyestrain. My writing foremothers and forefathers who endured after dark have my respect.
  • Trying to sew a doll by hand (a request made by daughter attempting to imitate Laura Ingalls Wilder) without a pattern is difficult even before the lights go out. The fact that it didn’t dawn on me to make or buy a pattern says something about my sewing ability.
  • The magic of raw materials – a yard of fabric, a pile of cotton balls – returns to you when there are no other options. We made tents and dresses from blankets and bag clips, and an exact replica of our house with Legoes.
  • You really do get tired earlier when there is no light.
  • Time without the internet is useful; time without any power, after a while, just feels wasted.

On storms that inconvenience us but thankfully spare us the worst, here’s an excerpt, translated by Robin Fulton, from Tomas Transtromer’s “A Winter Night:”

The storm puts its mouth to the house
and blows to produce a note.
I sleep uneasily, turn, with shut eyes
read the storm’s text.
And the house feels its own constellation of nails
holding the walls together.

The night is calm over our floor
(where all expired footsteps
rest like sunk leaves in a pond)
but outside the night is wild.

Over the world goes a greater storm.
It sets its mouth to our soul
and blows to produce a note. We dread
that the storm will blow us empty.

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