After a Storm

Well, we missed the rise of the full moon tonight. After a day that was all sunshine and heat and blue sky with high white fluffy clouds, the western sky turned into a wall of dark, bruised purple, and within minutes a fierce summer storm blew in. Somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00, a good hour before the sun would have set, it looked as dark as night outside, and trees were tossing in the wind. Then the rain came, and the power went out.

We lit candles and our one oil lamp, and ate dinner by their light as lightning and thunder snapped outside the windows, and sheets of gray rain pelted down, thrown by the wind against the glass. Later, with the power still out, we lit more candles and opened windows, letting in damp, cool air and the scent of wet green leaves, and sat down to read by candlelight. Rain continued to fall, steady but not so hard, and thunder continued to rumble for another hour or two, sounding like Rip Van Winkle’s bowling balls and pins, but more and more distant. And I realized I was in no hurry for the power to come back on. The luxurious quiet and the soft glow of candlelight seemed so gentle and relaxing, compared with electric light and TV and all the other machines.

When the power came back on, after a couple of very peaceful hours, it came with a buzz, a hum, some clicks – and sudden light that felt harsh – and the magic of the night disappeared.

Of course, no one says we have to turn on lights at night, or watch TV or run the air conditioning. It’s a tradeoff we make. A choice. But it’s not a bad thing to be reminded now and then that it is a choice, and that we do give up some things in exchange for others. For convenience, comfort, entertainment or diversion, we are less in touch with nature and with our own imaginations, and our own thoughts.

And I think what I noticed most in those quiet candlelit hours was not the more obvious absence of TV or music or even the lights, but the background noise, the constant, low, thrumming presence of machines, like a current running through me, not just through the wires. In its absence, I could feel the peaceful quiet more than hear it.

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