When the lights go out

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Today we returned from a week of vacation.  We were visiting family in Florida for an extended Thanksgiving holiday so I haven’t been blogging.  This will be a short blog so you know I haven’t completely dropped off the face of the earth.  I’ll get back to a more regular schedule once I get unpacked and catch up with email and phone messages.  I don’t know about you, but when I am away from home for more than two or three days, it takes me some time to get back to my routine.  Things pile up, and yet life has to go on.  

We came home and realized that we didn’t have much of anything to eat.  While we were discussing what we could throw together for dinner the lights went out.  In the next five minutes they went on again, and off again and on again, and finally, because the third time really is the trick, they went out for good.   I went to get candles and then to find matches, because one doesn’t work without the other.   I huddled in the dimly lit kitchen while my husband went out for sushi. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that in our little town we can get freshly made sushi at our local supermarket.  Once he figured out how to get out of the garage, he headed out.  Inconveniently, the garage door opener operates on electricity.

What can you do in the dark when it’s too early to go to bed?  I can’t blog because the wireless goes out, and I can’t cook or open the fridge.  You can’t watch TV or do laundry or charge your cellphone . . horrors!  I guess if you get desperate you can charge your phone with the car charger.   We don’t realize how dependent we are on electricity until we lose it.  In those moments the thought of buying a generator came to mind.  What if the power goes out in winter and you get really really cold?   And no hot coffee.  Double horrors!!

Yet there are things you can accomplish in the dark.  You can do what your ancestors did at night.  They read and talked and played cards.  They probably did have hot coffee because they could throw another log on the fire and put the kettle on.  They didn’t have cellphones so they wrote letters by candlelight.  I wonder sometimes if we have forgotten how much time we fritter away doing things like watching TV and connecting virtually with the world.  Are we better informed, are we happier?  I don’t know.  I feel overwhelmed with the newspaper online.   It’s not like a real newspaper that you can skim through and read the interesting bits.   You have to look through each section and each article to make sure you haven’t missed something critical.  Other online sites like genealogy and social networking seem to take hours out of the day.  Am I smarter?  Am I more connected?  Do I have more friends?  Am I a better person?

What I do know is that it’s not a good idea to leave things to the last minute because you may not have an Internet connection to prepare for your morning meeting.  You should know where your black dog is sleeping so you don’t trip over him.   Lastly, make sure you have a good supply of candles and keep the matches nearby.

If the lights go out again I have some ideas about how to interact with the world.  Books still come in printed form, and letters still end up in mailboxes after you put a stamp on the envelope.  There is something so satisfying about taking a letter out of a drawer and reading it again to remember a loved one.   I have some birthday cards my father sent to his mother when he was a boy.  They serve to keep my family memories alive.   Do we save e-cards?  Certainly not!  Where are the memories of the digital age?  Have we gotten lazy or complacent, can we only work and think and connect electronically?  Did this momentary outage mean that life had to stop?  Certainly not!  When the lights go out again I’ll think about how to make connections the old fashioned way.

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