Darkness and Candlelight
Sioux Center, Iowa
15 December 2003
I'll be brief, because the lights still flicker some. I'm making this blog post in a text editor, since my ISP still isn't back up from the power outage.
It has been odd, these past few hours, not to have electric light. The power had been threatening to go out for a while, and so we were mostly prepared when it finally went for good. It wasn't like the pictures I've seen of the NYC blackout this summer — no long walks home across the bridge, no nipping down to the gas-powered Chinese take-out place, doing a brisk business with no competitors. The drizzle had been falling for a while when I left school, my head hooded to block the wind more than the water. I bought my blue-books for tomorrow's literature test, came home, browsed the Web, and programmed a little. By the time we were ready to head to Donna's band concert, the rain had turned to snow but hadn't yet started to ice. We arrived at the church only to find the concert cancelled, and returned to the safety of our home after stopping at McDonald's to procure supper.
Then the lights went out for good. Matches at the ready, we soon had illumination back, paraffin in lieu of electrons. My mom came home and we finished our supper, and then manhandled the garage door to put her van away. My sister and I had concentrated the candles on the kitchen table so we could see to eat, but it quickly morphed into a general family gathering, the McNugget boxes and hamburger wrappers discarded like artifacts of another era. Like moths, we were all attracted to the light, only venturing away from it briefly to use the bathroom or find a book. Just those candles in the face of the darkness, an aura of light, peace, and security in the midst of dark and cold and wind and snow. I could easily comprehend how people's imaginations could take over in those small hours of the night, before electricity, always on whenever it is needed, drove their demons away. It felt very 19th century, the family gathered around the table, the candles creating a soft, pervasive glow. Our pursuits were oddly appropriate for that era — I read Much Ado About Nothing, chuckling occasionally at footnotes; my sister studied the career of Napoleon; my mother read Christmas cards and then cut off their fronts for use later as gift-tags; my father read the newspaper. The candlelight concentrated us, forced us to share each other's company, yet not too grudgingly. There was truly something romantic about the candlelight, somehow a return to something simpler and purer. It was almost a disappointment when we heard the whir of the furnace fan and saw the digital clock on the stove turn on. We reluctantly snuffed the candles, as though we were losing something unusual, something precious, in those half-dozen waxen blazes. My father flipped the switch, and our eyes were assaulted with the blazing, cheery glow of electricity flowing through the house's nerves once more.
I didn't really want it to end. But end it did, and this child of the modern era is left to cope with a certain sense of loss, that nags me in a place I'd thought long scarred-over and forgotten. Some desires are best kept unsummoned.
LegalTorrents is (are?) quite good. I'm listening to binary's "ivor commodore part 3" off the Monotonik vol. 1 torrent right now. Also like the 8 bit people compilations. Trying to figure out a way to display an RSS/RDF feed on this page from AudioScrobbler just for kicks and giggles. I've got one final left at Dordt, so it probably won't be for a while. On the other hand, there are new developments at my mancala project — we may have a GUI after all, since graphics programming with SDL is turning out to be a breeze.
Anyhow, onward and upward… to cramming!