Brought Together By the Lights


I awoke to eery inky darkness this morning around 5 AM. No digital clock numbers shining red, no nightlight illumination. Just black. The wind and rain storm yesterday that hit Puget Sound and the Washington coast left us without power, and a quick scan out the windows informed me we were not alone waking in the dark this morning.  The closest lights in the horizon were the Canadian border cities ten miles away gleaming bright.

We were caught unprepared on this one.  The flashlights, of course, were not where they were supposed to be, and the candles were stuck deep in cupboards after Christmas.  The generator, unused for too long, won’t start.  Our little bit of battery power for computer and phone is rapidly diminishing. When an Amish acquaintance from Ohio called me and I lamented about how completely unAmish I was in my dependency on the power grid, he chuckled and asked me if I had my oil lamps lit yet.

We are nearing 20 hours since the power went out, the storm long past, but sit with 200,000 other homes waiting to be “turned on” again. It could be awhile. It is just for these kinds of situations on the farm that we have a small generator that we use sporadically to pump the water to the barn and keep the freezer and refrigerator cold. No such luck this time.  Good thing it is a warm time of year (except for the freezer stuff).

Our children always celebrated our power outages. It is high adventure, an escape from the routine, and even in their teenage years, they cling closer. They are all gone but I remember past power outages when we cleaned barn with the help of flashlights, cleaned house together and folded clothes in the dark, guessing the color of the dark socks, played piano and sang together and read lines in my son’s high school musical, helping him to memorize his part. We played games and laughed more than usual. We were drawn together by necessity as well as by choice. There was one good light in the kitchen, so there we sat encircled together, connected by a candle, when so often we are flung apart by the busyness and bright light of the world.

Last night we revisited those times as we had previously planned to have five neighbor children over for several hours to hang out and eat dinner.  The barbecue worked, we ate canned fruit and green salad and finished off all the ice cream before it became soup. They found our dark house unique with books by flashlight, playing piano and watching cartoons by iPad.  As they headed home last night to their generator-powered house, I wistfully hugged each one, remembering those family storm days not so long ago.

I am hopeful about the thought of the power returning sometime soon. Our children used to say a no power day was one of the best Saturdays they remembered in a long time. I have to agree. Maybe we need to take a hint and shut off the electronics– the phone, TV, computer, and just sit down together more often, sharing ourselves inside a circle of light. It is far more memorable, and in a dark house battered by a windstorm, far more enlightening to the heart.