Making Light of a Bum Situation

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein, to be content. ~ Helen Keller

For the first hour, I didn’t notice the power outage that affected me and over 5 million other Los Angeleans yesterday. I was writing away with sunshine flooding the room, grateful that the 70+ mile-per-hour winds had subsided. Once it struck me, I felt like a dental patient. Dr. Tooth says, “Don’t swallow,” inspiring beast-like urges to gulp. Suddenly I longed for all-things-electronic. Surf the web, watch TV, scan photos, vacuum—you name it. We humans are nothing if not contrary…

Then I recalled a vow my hubby and I made last year after watching Little House on the Prairie Christmas: The Christmas They Never Forgot. We’d have routine “Ingalls nights.” We’d don overalls and braid our, okay my, hair, dine on homemade stew by candlelight and tell stories, sing songs and strum guitars (the next best thing to Pa’s fiddle) into the wee hours. Anything could go, except electricity. Our plans never came into fruition…until last night.

By the time Hubby arrived home, Christmas decor was out and our candlelit house smelled of “holiday peppermint” and “cinnamon spice.” We ate Raisin Bran and PBJs rather than stew and maintained our modern attire, but the overall feeling was right. Rather than ache over the “low battery” sign on my laptop, lack of internet connection or blacked out TV, I felt relieved. We were safe and sound in a cozy place that felt a lot like Christmas.

When the power came back on about an hour later, we decided against watching TV. (Why mess with tranquility?) Though I’m more grateful than ever for technology, I foresee many intentional Ingalls-style nights in the future…

What have power outages taught you? Do you tend to make the most out of bum situations or do you morph into Scrooge? 😉

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32 Comments

  1. I haven’t experienced an extended outage in years, but when my kids were young and the power was out read stories by candlelight, played board games and the kids had their best night of hide-and-seek. PB&J was our meal, too, along with whatever else didn’t need to be warmed up. Then we toasted marshmallows in the fireplace.
    It’s uncomfortable doing without the usual conveniences, but in the uncomfortable darkness is where we usually find our creativity abounds. Great post, August.

    Reply
    • “It’s uncomfortable doing without the usual conveniences, but in the uncomfortable darkness is where we usually find our creativity abounds.” Beautifully said, Marcia! Next time I’ll make sure we’re stocked with marshmallows… 😉

      Reply
  2. Here in Seattle, a few years ago, we had power outages during a snowstorm : (
    It’s incredible how much we rely on electricity.
    I now believe we’re a 48-hour-blackout away from living in a dystopian novel. : )

    Reply
  3. Sometimes it is good to unplug and check in with yourself, as well as those around you. In the centuries before electricity (I do remember them well) people actually talked to each other. I’ll bet your house smelled awesome.

    Reply
    • So true, Prudence…. My life has been far more peaceful since I began keeping my ringer on silent and my phone in the drawer. And yes, house still smells delicious!

      Reply
  4. mgmillerbooks

     /  December 2, 2011

    Several years ago, an ice storm knocked out my power for five days. After two days of huddling under every blanket I could find to stay warm, I was . . . traumatized. A friend happened to get stranded with me, and even though at the time we felt a little like remnants of the Donner Party, we ultimately had a great time just talking and reading to one another.

    Reply
    • WOW. Sounds like the aftermath of hurricanes when I lived in Miami…only we didn’t need heat! Perhaps fodder for your fiction?? Selfish question…I’d love to read all about it.

      Reply
  5. Hey August, we did fine over in West Hollywood. A few flickers but no real problems. My kitties had never experienced winds like that and alternated between running to the window to watch debris fly by and hiding under the couch.

    BTW, hubby and I gave up TV years ago and don’t miss it. We do have one, but it’s only linked to a DVD player or my laptop for streaming. A few weekends ago we watched the whole first season of “Downton Abbey,” which was a blast. Lovely post!

    Reply
    • As… My dog and bird seemed confused, too. Glad you (and they :)) still had light! Love that you gave up TV. I’ve lived without it in the past, which has led to me seldom watching it. It’s so fun to get into a show, though, right? We tend to watch full seasons at a time, too.

      Reply
  6. asraidevin

     /  December 2, 2011

    i have to do this with my daughter. She asks if we can pretend the power is outr and have candles. The first time she asked the power went out for a few hours that day or the next.

    Reply
    • That is TOO adorable! You sound like a great mom. One day you can tease her about her childhood passion…I’m seeing a graduation party by candlelight… 😉

      Reply
  7. Losing power can be magical if you make it so. Those were some of my favorite times as a kid. We also participate in Earth Hour in our family in March. We light a fire and candles, sing songs and tell stories. I LOVE it.

    Reply
    • Earth Hour sounds awesome! And your childhood memory reminds me of our MN “tornado parties…” Popcorn, games and the whole family, including pets, in the basement.

      Reply
  8. I live south of L.A. and fortunately we never went without power. Sorry about that August. It does get frustrating when we are used to those modern luxuries.

    My husband and I do not have TV, only internet. And might I just say that we actually love the peacefulness of no television. We are reading more also.

    Some say that it is quite romantic when those lights go out. Hmmm? 🙂

    Reply
  9. Shannon Esposito

     /  December 2, 2011

    We usually only get power outages here if there’s a hurricane, so I can’t say that’s a very tranquil time, but this post did bring a memory back for me. I grew up in Pa. and we had oil heat. One bad winter, the oil truck couldn’t deliver and we had no heat. It wasn’t unitl I grew up that I realized how dangerous that situation was. My brother and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to sleep in sleeping bags huddled together in the livingroom, making shadow puppets and telling ghost stories. My parents did a great job with that situation.

    Spending a night on purpose without power actually sounds romantic 😉

    Reply
  10. My husband and I had a tree down the road take out our power last summer during a storm. To be honest, my first reaction was to be grumpy because we’d planned to relax and watch a movie and have a nice dinner, and I felt like my plans were ruined. My husband went back into town and bought us a treat of Subway for supper, and we ended up playing Scrabble for hours. It was a good lesson that being in the same room isn’t necessarily the same as quality time. We had more fun and reconnected more over our subs and game than we would have if we’d had the dinner I planned and watched our movie.

    Reply
  11. We got lucky. They were expecting the Santa Ana winds to wreak havoc up here but it didn’t make it over the hill. We escaped. But my friend down in the Pasadena area has been without power for 48 hours now. This time of year, between the winds and the added power strain from all the Christmas lights (?) we usually get a lot of brown outs in our area. It freaks our kids out a lot and I worry about the food in the refrigerator more than what shows we are missing or lost connection to social networks. Like it’s been mentioned, it’s a good thing to unplug from time to time. Necessary if you ask me. And a black out or brown out is the perfect excuse to not feel guilty about it. Not that you should anyway, but it’s easy to convince yourself that way. Glad you were able to enjoy your quiet time.

    Reply
  12. Issues with power seem to be more common than ever. So far, touch wood, it’s never happened here in Calgary. But I’m sure it’s a matter of time. I know Eastern Canada has had many outages, so it’s inevitible here in the West. Glad to hear you made the best of it. What a good idea.

    We had a broken water main on Christmas Eve many years ago. fortunately I had finished preparing for Christmas Day (We were hosting about 30 people for dinner). We went to my sister’s for Christmas Eve Dinner but carried our clothes with us. Showered and dressed there and by the time we came home the water was running again. Thank Heavens. Can’t imagine trying to cook a big meal without water.

    What happens in a brown out? can you watch TV or use the laptop? I have to admit I don’t understand how it impacts people.

    Reply
  13. Last time we had a major power outage, it was -40 degrees. We bundled up in long johns and blankets and huddled around the fireplace. It was cold but lovely. For 8 hours, we dissed the power company, talked about what we’d do and how we’d live if the power never came back on, and generally had a terrific time. We simply don’t do with when the power is on and we have all these other distractions.

    Reply
  14. What a great idea! Maybe we will do that the next time we are in the mountains!

    Reply
  15. Hi August. When the power went out in the middle of our Texas summer it taught me to to move to a hotel with air conditioning. It also taught me (not that it was really necessary) that the original settlers who moved west across Texas were a hardened bunch!

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Both great points, Nigel! I admit, hotel thoughts crossed my mind… But I couldn’t swing it with my huge dog and wild bird. 😉 If the power stayed off longer, we might have had quite the interesting vacation!

      Reply
  16. Back in the summer sometime, San Diego had a huge power outage that lasted several hours. It didn’t bother me, except when I realized the dogs were at the groomers and it took me two hours to drive six miles. People are crazy drivers on the best days, but take away signal lights and they totally freak.

    After I got home with the dogs, we made quesadillas on the bbq and had some neighbors over. We lit candles and entertained ourselves with stories and games. It was a blast.

    I’m glad your power came back fairly quickly, although it is nice to unplug once in awhile ~ by choice.

    Reply
    • So true about the driving shifts, Tameri! It took me 45 minutes to drive a mile due to down street lights. So glad your scenario turned out beautifully last summer… I, too, was grateful to share it with my furry friend. 🙂

      Reply
  17. August, back in April, a pack of wild teenagers broke into my home and stole my computer. I couldn’t afford another one for a month. I also didn’t have T.V. at the time. So, for a MONTH, I spent virtually technology free (besides my computer at work). It was amazing what I learned! I had a creativity surge in writing–the old-fashioned way (with a pen and paper). I read a paperback book, relaxing on the couch. I exercised more. And ever since, I take “technology breaks” on purpose. I think it’s especially helpful for us writers! So perhaps a blackout didn’t teach me that, but a group of law-breaking teenagers did. 🙂

    Reply
  18. Great story, August.

    I tend to morph into scrooge, although privately. I try not to whine about such things. I once travelled the world for a year, and had many “power outages,” that weren’t really outages but absences. We got used to it and it became fun, like you said, a relief.

    But then we’d get back to civilization and be back on our computers watching movies and checking facebook like addicts. It was kind of sad to be around technology again.

    Reply
  19. What a clever idea. It does feel good once in a while to live more quietly and thoughtfully, not dependent on all our technology. It’s similar to what happens after a blizzard when there are no cars on the roads. People come out of their homes and walk in the middle of the street, talking and getting to know the neighbors.

    When we have a power outage, my husband and I read by candlelight, and go to sleep early. Feels so lovely.

    Reply

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