I wake to the popping sounds of lights and electric objects flickering on and off. A surge of volts trying desperately to come to life.
Stumbling to get my footing in the darkness, I realize my watch has a flashlight. Who would have imagined 30 years ago that you could shine a light, listen to music, answer your phone, count your steps, and monitor your heart rate with a device attached to your arm?
I search the sky for signs of lightning, wind, or rain. In the haze of early morning, nothing looks amiss.
The electric recliner holds my husband captive unable to budge the chair up or down. Without power, he has no internet connection, no news to read, and no way to escape the clutches of that chair.
We search for flashlights and candles. Drapes and blinds fly open to allow the morning light to fill the shadows as we stumble and complain.
“For what they charge for elecricity, we should never be without it,” grumbled the man who has maneuvered his way out of the entrapment of his favorite chair.
How had the world survived in the darkness? For thousands of years, candles, lanterns, and fire offered humankind safety and warmth. The radiance pierced through the twilight as families gathered to cook, share a meal, and tell stories real and imagined.
An hour passes, and still no electricity. At least the rising sun, although hidden behind grey clouds, fills the house with enough light to walk safely from room to room. How long before we retrieve the conveniences that we take for granted?
The coffee maker sits with half-brewed liquid. The clocks stand frozen in time. All the electronic voices, now mute, must wait. In our helplessness, we attempt to get on with our day. My husband walks down to the lake to put seed in the bird feeder. Our son settles into his chair where code flashes on a screen at least until his battery fades. I make the bed and search for the lighter to spark the gas stove burners to boil water for a cup of tea.
Then I wonder, how many women stoked a fire, hung a kettle over the blazing fire, and started their day gazing out the window. Teacup in hand, what fortune or misfortune awaited them as they sent children down the road to school, and their men into the fields, mines, or war?
I imagine another woman living in another place and time reflecting on the day ahead, writing words in a small leather-bound notebook. How romantic!
In reality, most days likely started like my grandmother’s. Waking long before the break of dawn, she warmed the kitchen with freshly baked bread. Combined with the aroma of just brewed coffee and bacon sizzling in the pan, sleep demanded an interruption.
She and my grandfather would sit at the handmade wooden table, silent or sharing a list of chores for that day. His thick hands gripped the table knife with the large handle and glinting blade that could slice through meat, or your finger, without so much as a snag or tug.
Two hours later, a flicker, and then nothing. We continue to wait for life to begin in this modern world.
After breakfast, Grandpa heads out to feed the animals with the first faint rays of sunlight flashing across his grey curls. His steps heavy and determined, he makes his rounds whistling and clicking morning greetings to cattle, hogs, chickens, and the wind.
Grandma begins her day by pushing aside an indignant hen who resents her intrusion for taking her eggs. The determined woman grabs a hen, who will provide the evening meal. Her swift jerk leaves the poor bird lifeless without time to object or flee.
So the days roll on into steady sequences of work, laughter, solitude, purpose, a life different yet the same as my own. As light fills every nook, I wait for the source that will enliven our day. We wait, each finding a resting place to slow down. Our soft voices break the silence chatting about nothing and everything.
Three hours pass. Eternity to some. Lamps resume their brightness. The refrigerator whir signals life. Clocks flash madly.
Now my day begins with tossing clothes into the electric washer and filling the electric crock pot for tonight’s dinner with the chicken I pulled from the electric freezer. I turn on my computer and reminisce on a place before we depended on the invisible power that fuels every moment.
I wouldn’t go back. Modern life gives me time for pleasures and luxuries unknown to my grandparents. But, despite the morning inconvenience, I rather enjoyed slowing down the start of my day, the quiet, the shadows, the streaming of welcome sunlight, and a few precious moments of gratitude.
I hit publish.