Monday, March 15, 2010

In Search of Power, 48 Hours Without it...

The power went out on Saturday, during the height of a huge Nor'easter which brought high winds and rain, causing trees to topple onto power lines. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, my world went from one filled with phones, computers, and cable TV to a much quieter, less busy place. On Saturday night, my family and I embraced the change and played the board game "Apples to Apples" in the glow of our camping lantern, but by Sunday morning, we were ready to get back to our lives and went in search of power.

Like everyone else in our town, we seemed incapable of going even a day without the conveniences of modern life- our cell phones and laptops. The morning dawned gloomy as we ventured into Starbucks, the need for power pulling at us. My boys and I plugged into power strips and essentially plugged ourselves back into a life I didn't really realize had such a pull on us.

While the storm had stripped us of lights and heat and the ability to cook, the thing I missed most was the communication factor. I hated that being without power made it impossible to communicate with the outside world or hear what was going in the world beyond my neighborhood.

Lucky for us, we were able to make contact by hanging out at Starbucks and for awhile, that was enough, but slowly the fact we didn't have hot water, heat, or the ability to cook began to wear on us. With our house dark and cold, the only thing I could think of to do at home was wrap up in a down blanket and read and that didn't seem appealing at all. Most days I would give anything to sit around and read all day, but the forced nature of it, made it feel more like a chore. So I sat around at the library and the coffee shop and swapped storm stories with everyone else held captive by the lack of electricity.

Everyone had a story. One couple I talked to spent Saturday night with strangers because they couldn't get home. Trapped in both directions by fallen trees, they banged on the doors of houses until someone was kind enough to put them up for the night. Another family had gone out for dinner on Saturday night and had to stay in a hotel because trees blocked their route. We all wondered when the power would come back on and when the kids would head back to school. The coffee shop became like a local community center, everyone sharing what the storm had brought their way.
My husband and I's story was that we had spent all Saturday night and into Sunday morning monitoring our basement and making sure we didn't take on water. With the sump pump not able to work due to the power outage, we watched as the water crept higher and higher and began to seep along the outside wall of the basement. In preparation for what we were sure was to come, we moved many of our things to higher ground. With no room left to spare, the water stopped rising.
While we all had different stories regarding the storm's impact, we shared one thing in common, a desire to get things back to normal. Seeking out power seemed to be the one thing that could bring us all back to our comfort zone. Looking for ways to recreate the lifestyle we had temporarily lost.
My family and I spent last night watching a movie on my son's laptop. Another family I heard of sat in their car and watched a movie on their car DVD. Everyone in search of some semblance of normal. Nobody looking to become like those families in the olden days gathered around the fireplace telling stories while the women knit and the men sharpened their tools. In a way, it made me sorry that we have all moved away from that place of long ago and embraced what modern technology has brought our way. It made me sad to notice how much I crave what power brings my way, especially when I try my best to bring slower modes of entertainment into my life.

I guess what I most want is choice and balance. To be able to hop on the computer when need be or read a book when I want to. To balance the busy parts of my life with the slow parts. Fast and slow, ebb and flow. This experience has caused me to discover that I hate being restricted from spending my time the way I would like to. When I am in the mood to sit quietly and think, being able to do exactly that sounds good. But don't make me spend time sitting and thinking because it is my only option.

The power came back on a few hours ago, shocking my son and I into action as we sat talking about all of the things we could be doing if the power was on. It was almost like the gods were listening and said, "OK, fine, go do those things you want to do". We each rushed off in different directions, me to load my storm pictures onto my computer and he to play a video game. Later, I will rush out to the store to pick up some things to cook for dinner and take a hot shower.

Did this experience teach me to be more prepared for the next storm? To purchase a generator to run at full tilt, drowning out the chorus of spring birds with its thundering rumble, as it sends the drug of power my way? Nope. I enjoyed being forced into the coffee shop, enjoying the camaraderie of others dealing with the same situation as I. The companionship found as I sat elbow to elbow with others, charging up our phones and laptops was reassuring. Finding common ground with others and discovering we are all basically looking for many of the same things in life. Hot coffee, power and a good story to share or listen to.

1 comment:


What destruction! Mother Nature has her way but in modern society, the two can sure but heads. Startling photos of the devastation. Thanks for giving the rest of us an eye witness account of happened in the east.-- barbara