What did you do when the Power went out?
What did you do when the Power went out?
Well to be frank, Uli and I lit the candles and happily went to bed – but for many of us in the North-East US, the word storm has been life-changing. My heart goes out to those who continue to suffer in such dire circumstances. Our family only had 24 hours without power and even though we had no major storm damage, in reflection, those hours still hold keys to much learning.
We were completely unplugged: all our appliances, electronics, and communication systems. This in itself made me remember how privileged I am: all that freedom to store up and prepare out-of-season food, explore the virtual world, find countless forms of solitary work or entertainment, and talk with anyone on the globe whenever I desire from the privacy of my home or office. What luxurious freedom, un-paralleled in human history; the freedom to choose to live as separate individuals, protected by the four walls and roofs over our head.
How mundane, even profane – when the wild world is so loudly calling our attention! In a few hours the weather brought down our defenses, battering the shell of our fast-paced modern lives. How many hours did you spend looking out the window, watching the wind and rain and realizing how “powerless” you really are? Did you like me, get outside and contemplate Earth community from the comfort of protective rain-gear, huddled under the porch? Did you hear the clarion whistle of the wind, the roar of moving water and uneasily feel the raw vacuum of empty space when the barometer dropped off the chart in the eye of the storm. This invitation to sortie into the wild, wet zone, opened me to new dimensions of fierceness, of resilience, of intensity – all qualities that my animal soul longs to recover by immersion, rather than by the schizoid touch of virtual reality.
This week, nature’s wildness brought us face to face with our addictions and dependencies of the most primal sort. We laughed as we were forced to grind our coffee-beans in a small mortar and pestle after first attempting to use the electronic gizmo. How many other times did I flip a light switch, or move in some direction only to be stymied by the lack of power. Initially it felt relieving to have another Sabbath day to relax and do nothing, yet even unburdened by email and computer, my body is so curiously addicted to work. So with the advantage of natural gas, it was fun to create comfort food out of the left-overs of fridge and freezer, and from mounds of greens still fresh from the garden.
One of the highlights of Sandy was having neighbors over for candle-lit dinner, eating by the fire, and spending unhurried time together. How happy I felt to be there, entirely present in such an uncomplicated way within a circle of community. When the power came on shortly after, I felt a lurking dread that it was time to get back to work, to do my part and help change the world into a better place.
On the other hand, maybe the storm washed away some of the pretense of needing to be “powerful”, maybe it put me in my place, along with the flexible tree trunks that lost their colorful leaves, but still hung onto the soil between their roots. Maybe being stripped by externally imposed limits is not always a bad thing for our run-away-freedom. Maybe joining forces with the explosive power of nature can help us say no to all that which truly kills the soul of our human lives in community on Mother Earth. Maybe this storm might teach me to live from the raw power of the inner vacuum of creativity, that place I am most fearful and anxious of – that vortex of un-knowing.
On Monday night I witnessed a transformer blow up on our street in a colorful bomb of energy, it exploded into utter darkness. I wonder if somehow holding our place there – in the silent darkness – we might transform this wild rawness into our modern civilization. Maybe this scary place holds some secrets. It seems that countless stories repeat the remarkable capacity for us as humans to bounce back from disaster, to give the clothes off our back to a stranger, to die so that someone else might live.
Maybe this dark energy of courage we are tapping now holds promise for days of renewal ahead. Let it be.
Some questions to ponder:
What did the storm teach you?
What new channels of thought and action have been furrowed out in those black-out moments?
Are you sure you really want to get all the lights back on and rush out the door at full-speed-ahead?