When the electricity goes out, color fades from my world. Part of the reason is visual. The retinal cells involved in seeing color require far more light to activate than the peripheral ones that see in dim light, but don’t sense color. When the light is dim, so is color perception.
But it’s more than just the change in vision. My world seems smaller and more limited when my routine is upset. Most clocks are blank. I can’t cook on my stove. I have to keep the refrigerator closed so food will stay cool as long as possible. I reflexively reach for dead light switches. Only two phones of the many in the house function. My computer doesn’t work. I feel as if I move through the day wearing lead boots and bracelets.
These limitations are fresh in my mind, because Hurricane Ike aimed his last blast of destruction at the greater Pittsburgh area, toppling trees and power lines like toys kicked around during a child’s tantrum. Hurricane force winds were recorded a few miles north of here, but our neighborhood was spared the worst of it. We only lost power. It went out at 9:30 pm on Sunday night and didn’t come back on until late Tuesday afternoon.
We decided to consider it an adventure. After all, it could have been ever so much worse. The temperatures are mild now, neither hot nor cold. Our house and property are intact. We still had water, and our battered old Coleman stove from the camping era works. We have lots of candles on hand. Yes, we felt a little guilty complaining at all, considering the devastation down in Texas.
The days are not so difficult. Aside from the fact that everything seems to take twice as long without the normal stove and other appliances, it’s light enough to read, sort things, and get to some of the backlog of non-computer tasks that are so easy to put off. Evenings are more challenging, but provide a great opportunity for playing old-fashioned games like cribbage, rummy or backgammon. Reading by the light of half a dozen candles has a special feel, and writing in my journal under the candles was a delightful treat. Candles in the bathroom create flattering light in the mirror.
A little time in these conditions is enjoyable in an odd way. However, when I heard the refrigerator whir to life in mid-afternoon on Tuesday, I reached for a switch. Light and color more vivid than I recalled flooded the room. It seemed as if a switch had turned a movie from black-and-white to Technicolor from one frame to the next. What delightful magic! How quickly life returns to normal.
Write now: about a large or small disaster you have weathered. Did you ever evacuate because of an impending hurricane? Did you stick it out during one? Has a tornado passed near you? Floods, landslides? A killer blizzard? Maybe your worst disaster is a simple power outage like ours this week or a broken water pipe. Tell what you did to get along without electricity and whatever other services were lacking. Describe any destruction to your property. How did you feel about it? How did you cope? What preparations have you made for future disasters?