We live on a hill, surrounded by rolling and dipping hills and a tree-fringe and a hedge of blue mountains on the skyline. It had been raining gray skies for the last three days, and when the snow came, it was so quick it looked like streams of white cotton. It was only an hour before the ground was coated, invisible beneath a pale shroud.
On a less poetic note, we were in the middle of supper when the lights went out. They flickered again, then were gone for good. My dad was full of dark predictions. It could be three or four days. We had to ration the water. No baths! My siblings were happy about that part. Don’t open the freezer. Light the woodstove. 75,000 people are out of power in Virginia…this could be a week.
Several hours later, after all lights had died, we became fire-worshippers, like all campers at mealtimes. It’s hypnotic, especially in the dark, watching the wavering flames, like spirits, the burning embers, like live dragons, and the coal black silhouettes of wood succumbing, crumbling to ash. By the light of candles, I read O. Henry and Father Brown short stories out loud, and my voice rejected the silent dark.
Normally, we would’ve been watching a murder mystery, but we were rationing power. On most nights, I’d have been thinking about whatever had happened on the internet during the day, or what was going on in The Outside World, or whatever movie I was interested in (probably the next Hobbit film) – instead, I wasn’t really thinking about anything. Just the prospect of staying at home for the next week, rationing, survival. It was tremendously romantic. And I wasn’t worried.
Unfortunately, destiny wasn’t being kind to romance, and by some miracle our lights blinked on the next day. We were probably some of the first to get it, despite the fact that we live miles from civilization. No doubt the whole thing would’ve lost its glamor in a few days, as quickly as gleaming snow turns to limpid slush, but part of me was still disappointed. The one night made me really understand how precious light was, in the days before light-bulbs, and how peaceful a world of empty time could be. The writer in me would not be vanquished – the instant I got on my computer, I tried to capture the feeling of going back to the rustic past.
Amid cries of
against the pregnant sky
the answer falls
and silently angry
against the glass.
We hide like gypsies around the flame
and choose to speak the inked symbols instead
of following moving pictures alone.
We are guarded by a fire-circle,
ancient, mysterious, almost
in its affirmation of our capture.
Our invincibility is broken
we are outside of time
full of time
and time spent well—
Maybe it’s better.
P.S. Kudos to my sister, Sarah, for the pictures.