Pioneer Days

Yesterday afternoon, we had a bit of a “power incident”. A power pole about a block from my house snapped, no doubt the victim of the recent winds that have blustered through our area. There was a flash of light, two large booms … and then, nothing. No power in my neighborhood, in the neighborhood a few blocks over, or in the neighborhood and houses across the street from where I live.

It’s funny how quiet the house becomes when the power goes out. There are times during the week, when my husband is at work, my daughter is at school, and it’s just the dogs and me hanging around the house, when I think, “This is the most silence I’ve ever heard.” The hum of the ceiling fan in my office, the click-clack of my keyboard, and the gentle, groaning sighs of the dogs seem to sing out with an unexpected force that feels soothing and comforting to my over-anxious soul. And, underneath it all, there is the never-ending hum of power coursing through the house, as if the building itself is alive. Is it too cheesy of me to say it’s a balm in a world that is too often restless and overwhelming? Maybe. But that’s just what it is. Sitting in my quiet house and hearing the small sounds of my life around me makes me feel content.

But the silence that happens when the power goes out is different. It is bigger. It is more profound. It is the kind of quiet that seems loud. It takes over the whole house until you think it might just swallow you whole. It is … SILENCE.

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So last night, I was sitting in my too-silent house … in the dark. And, naturally, my thoughts turned to my pioneering ancestors. I wonder about the kind of spirit and courage it takes to travel to an unsettled place and face unknown dangers. How must it have felt to huddle around one little candle or gas lamp against the darkness outside? Did they feel comfortable with their thoughts and dreams throughout the long darkness? Or did they anxiously await the first rays of the sun because that would call them to the work of the day? Were they bored without books and iPads and Internet? What does one do in the dead of night without FaceBook and Dragonvale? Maybe knit. Or spin thread. Or make candles. I have no idea.

I’ve often thought I would have been a terrible pioneer. I like my creature comforts way too much. I love having running water. And electricity. And a bathroom right in my house, so I don’t have to carry a candle and fight off bears when I need to pee in the middle of the night. And also, if you only have candlelight, you are sure to overlook spiders lurking in the dim corners of the outhouse. Spiders might be just a little bit more frightening than bears. At any rate, I’ve long ago made peace with the fact that I don’t seem to have the kind of get-up-and-go that it takes to settle into a wild place and build a life out of nothing.

Last night, though, I realized I was wrong. Quite, quite wrong. I bumbled around my hallways and stairs and bathrooms using only the light from a teeny tiny flashlight. And I hardly bumped into anything at all. I managed to sit, all alone, with my deep thoughts for at least an hour or two. And I didn’t even miss FaceBook at all. (I did miss Dragonvale, though. Some sacrifices are just too much to ask of a person.) As I turned in for the night at the ripe, old hour of 9:30 — because, really, there’s nothing else to do once the sun goes down if you have no power — I thought to myself, “Self, we’ve got this pioneer thing licked. We can totally do this.” I settled into bed, nestled among my comfy pillows with a good book, and clicked on my little book light for a nice, long read in the profound silence of my home. Oh yeah. I’ve got this pioneering thing licked. That’s for sure.

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