I woke up in complete darkness just after Tuesday ended and Wednesday began. Outside the wind was banging around the house, tossing garbage, tearing limbs off the trees, and howling like a hungry wolf. It raced through our city at 90 mph with six small tornadoes tucked in its pocket, which it set down here and there like spinning tops with winds up to 120 mph that tore roofs off, split trees clean in half, and then snapped a dozen telephone poles, tangling their power lines and extinguishing the lights for over 50,000 people. We were in that de-lighted number.
We sleep in modified darkness, a lonely universe with pinpoints of light here and there dimly shining. I have a digital clock by my bed that counts the minutes in blue-green numbers and we have motion-operated lights in the bathroom, hall, and kitchen that protect our toes from stubs and our shins from furniture. All night the lights shine – digital clocks in the living room and on the microwave, and on/off indicators on the TV, modem, Time Capsule, printer, computers, and toothbrush.
It has been a long time since I’ve experienced darkness. No lights inside; no lights outside. Only a glow in the night sky to the southwest where electricity still flowed.
Our grandchild slept in the spare bedroom when the storm hit but never woke up. We ate cold cereal for breakfast, opening the refrigerator to get the milk and closing it quickly to keep the food cold. I scrounged through the cupboards and found some coffee tea bags. Then my husband heated up water on the grill so I could have my coffee. On the way to the grandchild’s summer program, I saw some of the wind’s work and heard that it would probably be days before we would be back on the grid. We felt blessed to have water, including hot water from the gas water heater.
Wednesday I read more than usual. We could get on the Internet by setting up a hotspot on one of the iPhones, but the connection was slow. My husband drove outside of our area to find ice since all the nearby grocery stores were closed. We ate what we could from the refrigerator and put the rest of the food on ice. He bought a small propane burner and we cooked on that and made tea. I read myself to sleep with a flashlight.
Thursday I had classes. Our school had the power back on by then, and none of the international students in my class had lost power in their apartments. All were alarmed at the idea of living in an area with tornadoes, so we spent the first hour talking about tornadoes and what to do if one touched down. That conversation led to ice storms, blizzards, wind chill, and frostbite, which are all as much a part of living in northeast Wisconsin as bratwurst, cheese curds, fish fries, and bubblers.
Thursday evening after I got into bed with my book and propped my flashlight up, the lights flickered on and off. When the electricity began to flow again, some neighbor children ran outside whooping and hollering. I had to get out of bed and turn lights off.
I am thankful for the men and women who spent hours working on downed wires, broken telephone poles, and local generators. I had forgotten or never realized how much noise the lights cause. We live in a restless world of illuminated nights that leave little space for silence. Although we experienced some inconveniences during our short time without power, I slept well, wrapped in the quiet dark beneath the starlit night.
37 thoughts on “De-lighted for 44 hours”
Times like these serve to remind me to be thankful for the conveniences that power provides. It seems that storms in our area take out the power for a day or two each year and I recall that people here in the US used to live without power lines coming to the house not that long ago (but long enough ago that we’ve forgotten how to live that way!)
As usual, you have presented a delightfully different way of looking at this circumstance! Thanks, YS.
Power outages do make you grateful; they also make you aware of how much power and resources we use to make our lives more comfortable.
Over the past few years, the power has been out a couple days every year. I am amazed how incompetent I am. Stupid even. I will say, “ok, I can’t do this but I’ll go do some laundry.” Guess what? You need power for that and the computers and anything else you may want to do. The few restaurants that are open are jammed and people just aren’t very nice (especially without their coffee). Perhaps we should embrace it as a different kind of camping. Hope there wasn’t too much damage on your property.
Since we had water, I too, decided to do a load of clothes. And I could have if I had been willing to wash them in the sink. 🙂
By the way, Kate. I still cannot comment on your blog. For some reason, every time I try I get that “This comment cannot be posted” warning.
I just checked my settings and everything is ok. I don’t know why that happens (unless Word Press has heard about you). I do have one commenter that is required to log in (I don’t have that checked as a requirement so I don’t know why). If you have any suggestions let me know.
I will keep trying to post. For a while I couldn’t post on my own blog unless I went to dashboard.
This reminded me vividly of last fall, when Sandy took out our power for a mere 2 1/2 days (others in the immediate vicinity lost for as long as 2 weeks, and of course on the Jersey shore and Staten Island things were even more dire. My friend’s house was flooded and, since she lives very near the shore in our town, she’s been required to raise her house 9 feet before she can re-insure….and the house has been sitting there 9′ up, on temporary lifts, since early November, waiting for first the permits and now the foundation guy to come through…. Not having these conveniences doesn’t mean being proof against the storm, but I think it does make us a little less able to be stoic. On the other hand, once things begin to get back to normal, we can congratulate ourselves on our tiny triumphs, such as, yes, coffee on the grill. (We have gas, so I got to dig out the old French press my mother brought back from Europe many years ago and make now-chic coffee; but in our old house, which was all-electric, we had a week of barbequed-everything after one hurricane!) Nature puts us in our place.
Since we didn’t suffer any personal harm, we saw it as a challenge to make do without electricity. I’m sure if it had gone on for a long time, we would have felt differently.
And a propos of nothing in particular, this made me think immediately of you, even though your family circumstances were so different from the author’s. The importance of memory, the importance of stories…. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/booming/the-memory-ladys-daughter-tries-to-fill-the-gaps.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&smid=fb-share
I loved the story. Thanks!
Thanks for the photo of the bubbler. I was feeling really out of the loop. After the photo, I know I’m out of the loop.
I had never heard of bubblers until I met my husband.
We take so much of what flows through our daily existence for granted. I am glad you slept well in the quite dark.
I love to sleep in a cool, dark, and quiet place. (I guess that describes my final resting place, doesn’t it?)
On the upside it makes us appreciate what we have…so glad all is back to normal.
I want to remember that appreciation and put it on my key ring so I remember it every day.
Well, I did not really like that you were inconvenienced by the storm. But I like the appreciation for darkness and silence that we tend to forget about these days of ever-on appliances. And the appreciation for the workers who get overlooked, the ones who keep all the power up and working so our gizmos can keep working. Being out in total darkness is such a treat. At one time in the past, I was visiting friends who worked at the Meteor Crater in AZ. We went outside aways from their apartment complex that did not have outdoor lights and were engulfed in darkness–all the better for watching meteor shower that night.l Glorious. Thanks for bringing the memory back.
A number of years ago we travelled through northern Utah or Wyoming. Late one night we stopped the car just to marvel at the Milky Way. It had been years since I had seen it.
Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us. How well I remember the many scenes like this that we use to experience every winter in my youth. But as time has gone by, we’ve become ever more dependent on the advantages of electricity, and it is now a shock when once in a great while we suffer an electric outage. I have to admit though, that when it happens, I feel a childlike joy in knowing that nature has once again raised it’s hoary head… a reminder that our man made paradise has its limits.
We humans like to think we are masters of the universe. 🙂
One thing to be grateful for amid the inconvenience of the power outage is that it was summertime and not the dead of winter. Not having heat would have added a bit of a damper to your good spirits I’m sure.. But we are all glad that you came through it relatively unscathed..
Had it been in winter, we would no longer own any wooden furniture.
Ha, ha, I know how you feel.. I live in Massachusetts and the outages here seem to last forever.. Though our area hasn’t been effected very often, thank God.
Only in Wisconsin are there bubblers.
Every time we lose power, it takes many times before I stop trying to flip the light switches as I enter a room. Each time I think “Crap! What am I doing? The power is out!”
We lost power in a storm several years ago. We had a well for water, so were not able to flush toilets either. I realized then that we are just about 3 days away from total anarchy if the country were to be without power that long. Then Katrina proved it.
I think loss of water is much worse than loss of electricity. The loss of both is the road to anarchy.
What a concept to not need my sleep mask. Normally almost all rooms leak light in.
It is a good opportunity, tho, to appreciate all of the men and women who keep our everyday conveniences at the top of their list. I take so much for granted.
Sleeping in a dark room seems so much more peaceful and, at least for me, makes it easier to fall asleep.
Maybe we should all be De-lighted a little more often.
It might be good for us.
Back in my early teens I lived for three years off the grid. I often reminisce about that time as being my all time favorite living situation. Off-grid with thousands of acres of BLM land around and near the acreage I lived on, making my “backyard” go on forever. I LOVED it. I loved our chickens (chickens are so gross and yet so fascinating), I loved the stream going by, I loved the watering hole we used to walk down to in the summer to cool off. I loved watching the bats come out at twilight to eat the bugs. I would sit on my front porch and watch them for entertainment (no TV in our home). It was a simple life and quiet. We knew the sounds of all of our neighbor’s cars and the absolutely nearest neighbor was a 1/2 mile away. I really miss living out there. My dearest wish is to live on property like that again someday. Only I want running water (we didn’t have that) and the internet so I can get online and do my writing. Other than that, I don’t have a whole lot of technological needs. Sigh. Maybe someday…
Your experience sounds idyllic. I realize you had some hardships, but what life doesn’t?
In my hippie years, my dream was to live off the land, bake my own bread, sew my own clothes, grow my own food, have a gaggle of children, and watch the sun rise every morning. In the years following, I have experienced some of those things, and for that, I’m grateful.
It’s odd to think how much of our lives are ‘modified’, as you said, by modern commonalities like electricity. Probably valuable to step back from those conveniences once in a while to see what is genuinely necessary or even meaningful in our lives, but let’s be honest: a tornado is *never* going to be my chosen way to accomplish the hiatus/sabbatical. So glad you came through okay!!
We experienced only minor inconveniences. Had it been a major storm, I would have written a very different post. I’m thankful that so little damage was done in the area.
hello, yearstricken… we experienced a terrible typhoon with 10 feet of flood in 2009. power was out for three days, phone lines were cut off for four days and internet was down for two weeks. we listened to the news in the dark via an old casette player like in the early 80s. we had to line up for hours to buy noodles, hours to buy batteries and hours to buy detergent soaps… it was like we were in a doomsday movie, hoho. didn’t know prior that civilization could be set back like that but it did happen. twas a nightmare… 🙂
We suffered little – mostly inconvenience. I know that typhoons/hurricanes/monsoons can cause devastation. People around the world suffer great loss every year because of them. Glad you were able to make it through.
ahaha, barely, ms. yearstricken… we survived the debacle, physically. but that disaster really set us back and made us age several years, hoho. it has made us look at things and life differently, one might say… 🙂