I live in the most powerful city in the world, minutes away from the White House, and yet for the second morning in a row I awake in frigid darkness. No electricity, no phone, batteries running low. I make my way downstairs in the dim moon light reflecting off of the snow to find the Coleman lantern and some matches. Once I have light the next chore is heat. I’m low on kindling, having used almost all of it to build yesterday’s fire. An inept production, having not actually built a fire myself in more years than I can remember. But this morning I build the fire quickly and efficiently, as if this is how I start every morning. Next, coffee. Yesterday I dug out an old wooden hand-cranked coffee grinder – one of those things that you are actually thankful that you didn’t give away to Goodwill. I grind the coffee and fill the stove top espresso maker – a recent Christmas present. Unfortunately I’m out of milk. Powdered milk has a horrible old smell that ensures that you don’t mistake the sick yellowish liquid for fresh milk. But maybe the bitterness of the strong coffee will hide that distinct powdered milk taste. Hmm. Passable.
So here I sit by the light of the Coleman, watching the flames of the fire, drinking my morning dose of caffeine waiting for the sun to come up. Except for the crackle of the fire and whisper of the flames it’s dead quiet. Occasionally accumulated snow crashes off the roof or a high tree branch. A car crunches the ice as it rolls down the road.
The snow storm that caused this mess started the day before yesterday just before rush hour. A heavy wet type of snow that blankets the world in serene whiteness and causes lots of damage, including a fallen tree branch that took out a section of our front railing. I hadn’t paid much attention to the news that day and so wasn’t expecting it. When do you ever get as much snow or rain as the weather masters predict? So I didn’t prepare. No run to the grocery store for bread and milk. They were probably out by then anyway. No making sure I had a flashlight handy and my cell phone charged. No nothing. Then shortly after dinner it happened. The lights went out. It’s not like I wasn’t warned. They flickered on and off a few times, but I was optimistic or lazy and still didn’t look for the flashlight. Even after the lights went out I just sat in the darkness looking out at moon through the trees waiting for them to come back on. Two days later I’m still waiting.
It’s good for the soul to live in darkness and silence once in a while. It changes our perspective and forces us rethink the ordinary. How will I stay warm, how will I make coffee, what will I do in all this silence? But enough is enough. I’ve had my little life lesson, ground my coffee by hand, reflected by the fire and am ready for a little power to start flowing my way.