in the dark
no one had a clue it was coming.
then, stumbling through a monday morning’s making of coffee, i heard some chatter on the radio about high winds that had halted two trains, a coupla counties away. i glanced out the window, saw nothing but sunshine, felt the start of another hot day.
hmm, i thought, what station is this, did someone jiggle my dial? there’s no storm for miles around. is this some other state they’re talking about?
then, from the little box that sits by the knives, came word that this so-named “ferocious storm” would be hitting yet another town, a town i knew to be, oh, 30 or 50 miles from the first ones they mentioned, in a mere 10 minutes. i did the map in my head, thought, no way, short of a ramrodding locomotive–or a hellbent tornado–could any winds sweep across that many miles in so few minutes.
and then, just as i was cocking my eyebrows, beginning to gather the message, they mentioned that a mere five minutes after that incredible span, the storm would be rushing the lakefront. and they named the leafy town where i live.
why, we had a boy out on a lagoon at the very instant these words came over the wires. another boy, the little one, had woken up early and helped me dash to click on the TV in time to see a picture, on the national weather channel, mind you, from our very own not-so-far-away airport, where the winds were all whirly and quite smoky gray. egad.
not a minute later our sunshine was swallowed by black clouds. clouds that somehow cast an eery green-yellow, like the rim of a bruise after a day or two, when the deep purple bull’s-eye of the place you got bumped goes the color of neptune, or the mold on your overdue cheese.
before i could yell, “get to the basement,” the winds started howling, the trees bent, nearly snapped. lights flickered once, then twice, then kerpluey, lights out.
for the next 56 hours.
which, when your nice warm refrigerator is turning your larder to ruins, when you cannot open the windows for the stifling heat outside, when you take to the car to crank up the A-C for a short drive to nowhere, is a very long time.
once i’d surrendered the food, either tucked it away in the ice box of my elderly next-door neighbor who happens to have a back-up generator, or the freezer of a dear across-town friend who was lucky enough not to live on our blown-out grid, and chalked up the rest to nature’s merciless toll, i settled into the mystery of this pioneer moment.
made like a girl on a black-out adventure.
i discovered, of course, the beautiful buried beneath all the darkness.
it didn’t take long.
a few hours after the sun finally dropped beyond the horizon, a few hours after my eyes had seen anything bright, i happened to glance up over the tree line. i saw the brightest, most heavenly orb i’d studied in a long, long time.
it was the moon, of course, and i marveled.
realized once again, as i traced its beams across the ruffled leaves of the trees, across the sharp-angled shingles of the roof, and down to the brick path where i stood, just how majestic that moon must have been in a long-ago world where every night brought blanket of darkness.
i whispered benediction, and made a promise i hope isn’t futile. “dear moon, don’t let me take you for granted.”
not long after, i saw that the fireflies were blinking more boldly than in a long, long time.
it’s not often, i realized, that power goes out in the summer. so instead of studying ice crystals by moonlight, i got the gift of the firefly flicker.
quite a pile, the bright lights of darkness.
then, later still, i stepped outside to see if i could catch a breeze. i was chomping a midnight apple, and let my eyes roam all around, drinking in the layers of shadow. i must have looked up right away, because right away i was struck by all the extra stars studding the sky that very dark night.
and on it went.
when i happened to be tiptoeing around, somewhere near 3 o’clock in the morning, i noticed for the first time ever, i think, that fireflies pull all-nighters. they keep up the flicker, it seems, till the dawn shooshes them off to their beds.
and so it went.
all week, it was candlelight and conversation. the first night, in full little-house-on-the-prairie mode, it was lanterns and dinner, and whatever we could salvage from the warming-up fridge.
the next, when the little one and his papa high-tailed it to our freezer friend’s fully-operating telly (the better to take in the all-star game), the college-bound boy and i sat in the dark at the kitchen table and sipped prosecco, our words lit only by one flickering candle and the magic of a whole evening alone, with no blinks or beeps to disturb us.
i drank deeply, i tell you, of that rare gift, knowing full well that all too soon the boy would be off a thousand miles away, and i’d be longing for such a night, alone in the dark with my deep-thinking child, there at the shadowy table. i knew right then the terrible winds had brought me a forever treasure.
in the end i wound up with my fridge purged of bottles and condiments that had long exceeded their statutes of limitation. who needed the maraschino cherries from three summers ago, the ones i’d never quite managed to toss, but now had to?
and once all those overdue jars and bottles were gone, and the milk and the cheeses dumped, sadly, into the garbage, i scrubbed that fridge–and the basement freezer–top to bottom, inside and out.
i am back in business now. lights, once again, go on whenever you flick the magical switch (and i am still marveling, two days later).
the fridge is stocked with whatever we need to get by. the freezer awaiting my generous contributions.
i’ve hauled out the vacuum, and sucked up a week’s worth of grit clomped in on the bottoms of baseball cleats. i caught up on the loads of laundry piled high in the soon-musty basket.
and now my sweet little boy, the one quite bothered by all of the darkness, he’s come down with some germ that is making him all hot and achy.
this very long week has come to an end.
and i’ll not soon forget the beauty i found in the darkness.
were you in the dark this week? where did you find the beauty? and if this week wasn’t one that brought you darkness, where have you found it on the dark days you’ve known?
p.s. i always hate it on days when my writing has to come in bits and spurts. it’s hard to spin lines when nursing a sick little child. so please see through the bumps, and pardon the lack of a flow……
And? The boy on the lagoon?
because he had just gotten a nasty blister on his thumb, he decided to row to shore early. as he was lifting the 30-foot boat out of the water, he noticed the sky was black, the winds suddenly picking up speed. as he overhead-hauled it to the boat house, the rain started to pelt. as he got it onto the rack he said the roof sounded like horses were stampeding above. he was in the dark, alone, far from a phone. so we sweated it out, not knowing where he was. but we are learning that he has the smarts to find his way out of harm’s way. his voice, an hour after it all passed, was a beautiful sound. no tree had fallen on the car, and except for stoplights that weren’t working, his drive home was uneventful. phew. and amen. and, oops, so sorry to leave you in the dark there…..(pun realized as it was unfolding…)
Lately, I just go right into the darkness within and explore. I’m amazed at the power of awareness, which can lead me to choose new responses to the same ol’ stimuli that threw me off my horse a thousand times before. And that’s the beauty I’m finding, in the space between what happens…and my response…is my freedom.