Monday, January 12, 2015


One of the ten plagues of ancient Egypt was Darkness. I think it came right after Frogs, and preceded No Toilet Paper.

Let's pause here for a moment while I clear something up:
I was not a first-hand witness to the plagues. Despite what some of you might think, I am not that old.
Well, not quite that old, anyway.

I only know about the plagues because I've read my Bible. I'm well-versed.
(don't look for any play on words)

The prospect of absolute darkness doesn't seem scary when you're reading about it with sufficient light. When you're in the midst of darkness with no light at all, it takes on a whole new perspective.

Up here in the mountains, in the proverbial middle of nowhere, darkness is profound. The sun sinks very quickly in early evening, and when nature's light is extinguished the world assumes an intimidating isolation unlike anything else.

I've written about it before, and undoubtedly over-played it, but it really can't be emphasized enough. You never know how lonely alone can be until you spend the after-dark hours in a forest on a mountaintop.

As someone who values privacy and craves solitude, this vast isolation is an absolute pleasure for me. It feeds my sense of adventure and ignites my romantic imagination.

It also, however, makes me fully appreciate the luxury of light.

Today was cold, with persistent rain and an eventual fog that extinguished my plan to drive into town. In early evening I decided to nap. My sore throat is dragging on, along with my lethargy. I snuggled under the covers, listening to the rain and the purring of my nearby cats.

It was unusually dark when I woke up: a darkness that was immediately unnerving and inspired me to jump up and turn on a light.

Power outage. Alone on a mountain with no lights.

In the course of my active imagination, I had expected something like this to eventually happen - - but not quite so soon after moving in.

I'm much more annoyed than scared.
I can't find my shoes. I lost my cell phone.
Three frantic cats are scurrying underfoot. I can't find my wallet or keys. I don't even have a flashlight. It suddenly occurs to me how ridiculously unprepared I am for rural life.

The house is an obstacle course of unpacked boxes and haphazard furniture. I'm running into things, tripping over cats. While doing a clumsy Helen Keller imitation, I finally make my way to the kitchen. In a cabinet I find matches and some candles left over from Christmas Eve.

The prospect of spending an entire night in darkness isn't pleasant. If worse comes to worse, I could always drive to my cousin's house. Given the choice of two evils, however, I'd rather spend the night in a pitch black house than try to navigate the treacherous mountain roads.

Somewhere in the hours between midnight and eternity I hear the unmistakable sound of a truck laboriously driving through the mud and gravel that leads to my house. It's a work truck with flashing red lights.

I run outside to greet the unexpected guest. The driver assures me that they're fixing the outage and lights will be on soon.
I could hardly believe that anybody would be out here at this hour, working in such cold depthless darkness.

The worker was as good as his word. Within an hour power was restored. I started making dinner at midnight - with a great appreciation for light, and respect and gratitude for the heroic power company workers.


  1. bless their hearts! now how's about getting a hurricane lantern or two for the next outage?

  2. In the future, keep a flashlight near the bed. I'm thinking an old fashioned oil lamp would add to the charm of your mountain retreat. Sit it in front of a mirror and it will light the whole room if the power goes out again. My grandma taught me that. Hope your sore throat isn't strep. It can linger. Take care. Thank heavens for the power company.

  3. Living in the city my whole life, I have the opposite problem. It is never dark enough, it is never quiet enough. And if I need something, there is a convenience store just half a block away. I am most amazed at how dark the night gets when I am in the desert. I feel like my whole life I have been surrounded by artificial light! I have found that I have a harder time going to sleep if there is not at least SOME noise happening.

    It goes without saying that you should invest in a good lantern and a cupboard full of candles.

  4. Ironically, I have an oil lamp and several flashlights........all packed away, somewhere........

  5. I don't know if you have your own water well there, Jon, but no-juice-to-the-pump has always been our greatest inconvenience during a power outage. Some neighbors keep gas-generators for such occasions. But it sounds like you have a very efficient and intrepid utility crew. Big plus!

  6. The older I get, seems the more I get freaked by total blackness. Tho' I think my fear stems from the two-legged beast. (Guilty conscious? ... Too many late-night thrillers?)
    God bless those power company workers, eh?!


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