Losing Power

On Saturday afternoon a series of violent thunderstorms swept across Vermont, felling trees and downing power lines, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers, including us. In a rural state such as ours, where residences are widely scattered and there are 13,000 miles of road (the majority unpaved), it can take many hours – sometimes days – to restore power to everyone on the grid.

Copy of late July 060In our little pocket in the foothills of the Green Mountains, the storm came up fast – dark clouds boiling over the western hill behind the house and fierce gusts of wind tearing through the forest and rocking trees around the house. It rained hard for about half an hour. Then it was over and the sun came out.

The power flickered, went out, came back on, then went out again.

And stayed out.

Usually when we lose power it comes back on in an hour or two. This time, we lost it for twenty-four hours. It was only one day, but it seemed a lot longer. Partly because it was inconvenient. When we lose power we also lose water. And because we’re in a cell phone “black hole” we don’t have phone access either. We’re renters and, unlike many of our neighbors, we don’t have solar panels or a backup generator. So instead we store buckets of water for washing up and flushing toilets and keep our fingers crossed that there will be enough to outlast the power outage.

Once I get over my initial annoyance I’m usually philosophical about these things. It’s the price we pay for living out in the country, which I consider a great blessing. If we’re lucky enough to lose power before it gets dark, as we did Saturday, we assemble our stock of flashlights and candles on the kitchen table, make sure our buckets of water are handy, and curl up with a book. As time passes and it gets dark, we light candles and break out our Kindles. We wonder aloud how long it will be before power’s restored, how many people in our area were affected, what to do about supper, whether any of our kids are trying to reach us.

In the quiet and the darkness time seems to expand. We talk and read and make jokes. Cool night air flows in through the open windows. We hear our neighbor’s generator come on. The only other sound is the river. We step outside. The waning moon hasn’t risen yet and the stars are amazing.

Slowly but surely life slows down and peace flows in.