Monday, February 1, 2016

In the Dark

We lost power Saturday evening for about an hour — dead in the middle of a dark winter night. I was upstairs on my computer when everything switched off. Completely black. I cautiously made my way to the windows which look out onto the street, and the darkness outside was dense and impenetrable — and completely beautiful. With the light from my iPhone lighting my steps, I descended the stairs to the kitchen, and went out the door, careful on the steps, to stand outside under an umbrella of stars.

I couldn't help but notice how different this darkness was from the ordinary, streetlamp-lit darkness we're used to. While the usual urban night always seems cold and harsh, this total darkness was soft and inviting. It settled upon me like a velvet blanket, at once comforting and familiar, despite the mid-winter chill.

How long has it been since I've been away from the electrically-lit night? Too long. It's been a decade-plus since I've been camping. But this darkness was different from forest darkness. This seemed almost a relief, a letting-go from the requisite grid of city standards. A deep exhalation amid electrification, an oasis of calm in an over-lit world.

Tonight, walking home in the dark, I encountered a neighbor on the sidewalk.

"Oh, hi T."

"Hi L."

"Happy February 1st!"

"Yes, and oh, it seems darker every year, doesn't it?"

"I suppose it does, but then, we're just getting older, and the darkness is within us."

Here I've been all these past few months railing about the lack of daylight, as if it were something never before experienced. Do we forget, from year to year, that this is the normal pattern? I think we want to forget. I know I certainly do.

And yet there I was, standing outside late on Saturday night, reveling in the wonder of a power failure.


  1. I live in the country, miles from nowhere, and can see the Milky Way. When pondering a move after more than thirty years to the city, the number one thing on my 'don't' list was the stars.

  2. We always keep candles and matches at the ready, and I have a tiny solar torch in my pocket. We never know when our power is going off. I rather like the sudden blackness.

  3. a beautiful account of what most people would simply consider an annoyance. power outages can remind me of my real place in the world.