DH and I took a tour of Wind Cave while we were in South Dakota a couple of weeks ago. While on the tour, our guide performed a very standard cave tour ritual–our whole group sat on a row of benches, and she turned all the built-in lighting off. There you sit, hundreds of feet underground in total darkness and silence; no stray beam of natural light could make its way to you there. Our guide then pointed out that the first cave explorers did so by the mere glow of lantern light. She demonstrated with an actual candle in a lantern…it was not very bright at all but gave off an eerie glow across the rock formations on the walls and ceiling of the cave.

Last night I cam home from an exercise class around 9 p.m. It had been raining on and off all afternoon and evening with the occasional burst of lightening around the sky. I pulled into the driveway, mashing on the garage door opener to no avail. I supposed the battery must have died, so I hopped out of my car to try the remote keypad mounted to the side of the garage door. Nada. I wasn’t sure what the deal was, so I just parked in the driveway and went inside.

I quickly figured out what what going on…the electricity was out. The appliances were off and, the light switches did nothing. I scrounged around for some flashlights and dug out a pile of candles to light in the kitchen. After determining it wasn’t just a breaker on our house, I called the power company to report the outage. I assumed it was related to the storms going on, but I wasn’t sure. An automated message said they estimated the power to return just after midnight. There was no real point it waiting up just to see the lights come back on, so I got ready for bed by candlelight, then snuggled on the couch with the dog and a book for a bit of reading before heading to bed.

Having no electricity for the evening reminded me of being in the cave. No light to be had other than some small, flickering tongues of flame, the harsh white light of an LED flashlight, or the glow of my telephone screen. And with all the appliances and electronics off, it was eerily quiet. It’s amazing how accustomed we are to the electric hum that’s constantly around us 24/7.

Unfortunately, this also meant the dog could now hear every molecule banging together in the air, and he felt the need to bark at every little whisper of something he heard. I’m sure this was exacerbated by the fact that he knew DH was gone and that it was just a little eerie with the lights off. Well, at least he’s, presumably, a good guard dog, right?

It was dark and quiet when I went to bed, but it was bright and humming when I woke up this morning. I’m thankful that if the electricity had to go off, it at least picked a cool summer night when nothing really was going on instead of a cold day when I was dependent on heat (we don’t have a fireplace, gas or wood, in the house) or an evening when we had a lot of people over. Either way, it’s kind of nice to know you can get by unplugged if needed, at least for a little while. I felt slightly helpless for a few moments, then I realized I could manage just fine. The biggest inconvenience was not being able to see, though I mostly remedied that by candlelight. Long term, though, we depend on it for keeping and cooking food, for washing clothes, heating water, and other basic tasks required for modern convenience. A lot more planning and preparedness would be required to do without electricity for a longer period of time. I mean, people did this for millenia and managed just fine; you just have to get used to it.

Either way, an evening of books by candlelight wasn’t so bad, actually.

 

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