Saturday, July 7, 2012

When the Lights Go Out

My cousin Mark Taylor says this looks like a grazing dinosaur

I’ve lived through lots of losses of electricity – the mid-winter ice storm in West Virginia that left us without power for a week . . . intermittent losses of no more than a day throughout a lifetime . . . the more or less scheduled daily absence of electricity interspersed with inexplicable powerless days and weeks that is Iraq . . .and most recently, the storm of last Friday that swept the central eastern United States.

Jumble of home-run wiring in Baghdad
In Iraq, such an existence is a way of life, no more remarkable than that it’s hot in July – really hot.

But in the US, we have grown so accustomed to the ready and consistent availability of electricity to the point that its absence is more than an inconvenience: it’s a threat – or at least perceived as one.

But when the lights go out, some pretty amazing things, things that make even our fears seem small . . .

Outside, the evidence of Mother Nature’s handiwork is an awesome thing, reminding us of our relative smallness in the cosmos, up close and personal.  It’s one thing to stand before the ocean or the night sky and be reminded of the vastness and power of creation . . . it’s quite another to stand beside a hundred-year-old tree, impervious to we humans below, broken or uprooted by the force of wind, while its neighbor tree remains untouched.

Inside, to feel the heat unabated by the modern wonder of air conditioning is to stand with poorer brothers and sisters around the world as well as our ancestors, surviving without the cool comfort we so enjoy and take for granted.

Lights out at dark changes our daily rhythms away from our own artificial ways back to nature’s own harmonies . . . I like that rhythm better and find I don’t need a clock to tell me when it’s daylight.

And, of course, there’s the help of neighbors.  I still don’t know who took away the debris that landed on the church, including a branch that was so big it seemed in the random photo someone took (the only way I even knew it was there) to have been a tree sprawling across the front doors.  For that and so many other acts of overt and stealth kindness, I say thank you.

For Benny for getting and storing my frozen goods in their generator-run freezer during the outage . . . for Bev and Rich for watching my cat while I was gone, when they had so many other and more pressing concerns on their plate . . . for all the neighbors that checked on each other and did what they could to help . . . for the many, many, people who have traveled away from their own homes and families to walk into these woods carrying hundreds of pounds of gear to repair lines and poles and restore power . . . for Betsy, equally at home in the most chic of locales or boiling water from the river for her family . . . for a church that doesn’t need its pastor in town to tell them to take care of each other . . . for all the acts of grace seen and unseen, I am thankful.

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