Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Lights

So, last night the power went out with sudden crashing darkness.

I'm not sure that I can adequately convey to you exactly how dark it gets here. I can see the Milky Way in the night sky. It's a sparkling band of stars just barely washing the blackness of the sky. I remember it vividly from childhood and went almost my entire life before seeing it again. Seeing it here.

I remember when they used to talk about light pollution. They don't talk about that anymore. Sometime during the '80's, it seemed like neon made a comeback and people didn't mind so much not being to see the sky at night. I remember the first time I went to New York City. I was a teenager and the quality of the light at night there was so strange to me. It was my fist experience with urban night. I remember thinking that it was like swimming in dirty dishwater. The night sky was so unnatural to me there. It never got dark. I went on to live in this dishwater for many many years. And then I came here. This is my reward.

But last night, after it had finally rained, some huge tree came down and blocked out the electricity. It went out with certainty and no flickering. The way you know that it isn't going to come on again for a while. I'm night blind. I never feel very sure of myself in the darkness. My father was the same way.

I sat here at the computer in the inky blackness. I quit smoking so I no longer have that immediate knowledge of where to find fire. If you smoke...you always know where to find fire.

Finally, I got up and groped my way into the living room. I vaguely remembered a lighter laying on the counter. I felt around for it, but couldn't find it. I needed to find a flame for the hurricane lanterns and I didn't know where I'd find one. I remembered a little lighter that stayed in the jeep. I was always running into it when I needed to get change out of the console. I groped for my car keys and felt my way out onto the porch. The sounds of the night assault you here in the summer. The whip-or-wills and the bullfrogs. It's really loud for eight months out of the year.

The lights of the jeep come on and my eyes feel soothed by the stimulus of brightness after so much dark. But the lighter is not there.

There is nothing left to do but start up the jeep and turn the overhead deer spots on so they shine into the house. Finally, with the glare of the jeep lights, I'm able to find a small lighter in the house. It was the one I was groping for earlier but couldn't find. Funny how it was where I thought I was feeling around for it. I'd make a terrible blind person.

It's taken me an hour to find the fire to light the lamps. I take one upstairs with me to bed and read in the dim flickering light before falling asleep.

Suddenly, at 3:00a.m., the house roars back to life and I must get back up and turn off the lights that were left on. Blow out the hurricane lamps and go back to bed.

In the morning...the air vibrates with the sound of chainsaws and men's voices.

10 Comments:

  1. Anonymous said...
    ... the power was hit here too..... but I really enjoyed your description of the darkness...

    Eric
    threecollie said...
    How wonderful that you still have whippoorwills. They have been gone up here for years now....I have been told by an area bird expert that the decline of farming here led to their decline. Don't know if it is true.
    Welcome to Ducks Mahal said...
    I must have got the storm you did right after since I’m sort of south of you. I think we share the same weather. I have a little thread about what the storm did to me. I invite you to see it. I know what you mean about the dark. I have a flash light and night vision scope on my rifle next to my bed (serious) so if I hear a critter trying to get my ducks, I’m on it. I also can’t see for shit without my glasses. The other night I was out at about 2 in the morning fumbling around and thought I stepped on a snake, which turned out to be a stick.
    Paul said...
    Nice detailed description...

    The only time I think I ever saw the sky without light pollution was a brief visit to a monastery. There weren't even any streetlights for miles around. It really does increase the awesomeness of the night sky. Oh, also from a cemetery at around 1 AM. (Back in my days as a werwolf - wherewolfe? They never did focus on spelling in werewolf school, it was the seventies...)
    marsha said...
    I miss the sounds of frogs and crickets. The only thing I hear in Surprise ARizona is cars on the street....so sad.
    Anne Johnson said...
    Of all the things I miss most about not living in the mountains, it's the whipporwills. I too have seen that sky without any white light. It's where the bored gods live.

    The faeries hid your lighter. You got even by turning on the deer lights. So they gave it back. Of course the Smokey Mountains are just lousy with faeries.
    Rosie said...
    Yes, Paul...the night sky is a really special thing. It occurs to me that most people have not seen it as we have. It's part of what makes spirituality such a real thing to me...that experience of laying on the grass at night and getting lost in all those points of light in the blackness.

    Oh, Anne...tell me about it! We also have these big, fat, impossibly slow fireflies. Sometimes at night you can really feel the fairies out there watching you with all those little lights in the wood.
    Erica said...
    I had no idea you lived in NY. A few years ago I had occasion to drive with a friend of mine in the middle of the night in rural New Jersey and the sky was, as you described, an inky black, and the stars sort of looked as though they were encroaching on the front windshield. At that point in my life, I don't think I had ever seen anything like that except in the inside of a planetarium. We had an unbelievable blackout a few years ago and I got to see it again, but from my own backyard.
    Rosie said...
    Hey Erica....I didn't live in NYC, but it was the first mega city I ever visited. I lived in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta. Spent a lot of time in NYC and London, Bristol, Manchester. All of them have gray nights. It just never gets dark. But I can remember being 14 and in the city and gawking up at the skyscrapers and the color of the night. It was like a sci-fi novel to me at that age. I don't know, it had just never occurred to me up to that point that there were places that didn't get dark at night.
    Galadriel said...
    I love your description of the dark. Black darkness is heart-squeezingly wondrous.

    We're too close to a small city to get true darkness, but it used to be darker than anywhere else I'd lived. Then one of my neighbors got a light post for their farm. It's over a small hill, but it still destroys the darkness at our farm.

    Sometimes we lose power at night. It gets such a lovely dark without their light pole. Still not the real thing, but much better than most nights.

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