Friday, January 09, 2004

In The Bleak Midwinter

Woke this morning into a numbing, blind and impotent universe, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it but shiver and curse.

I'm used to the darkness by now, I suppose. The 8 a.m. class isn't my strong suit, but modern technology has made the wee hours inhabitable. With a flip of the bathroom light switch, a flick of the coffee pot button, the setting of the iron, what was once a drag (Get up in the dark? You're kidding, right?) has become familiar, a blurry comfort, a sense of ritualistic self-starting unimaginable in those ancient and vaguely understood societies where the sun drives the day. Owning my consciousness once seemed stressful; it has become a blessing, and a way of owning both universe and self.

To find the power gone was more than disconcerting -- it was disempowering. No coffee. No heat. No iron. No hot water. No light; it's still pitch dark out at 6 in New England in January. Good thing the moon's still mostly full, and out about as high in the sky at six in the morning as it is at six in the evening, except on the other side of the house. Otherwise I'd have been stumbling blind into a blackout of neighborhood scale.

Baffled by the still-dark universe, freezing to death and increasingly undercaffeinated, I went back to bed and lay awake, confused and shivering. Soon the baby woke up my wife, who reported that the power had started blinking on and off rhythmically at 2 am, enough to keep microwave, laptop, stereo and cordless phone cradle beeping until she got up to turn off the major appliances.

It felt good to have an explanation, I guess. But it didn't really make things better. You can lose a lot of heat in a drafty old house over four hours in single-digit weather, and we did -- I figure the house was down to the low forties, and colder near the windows, by the time the power finally went on sometime just after seven. A subsequent call from the top of the snowday phone chain here let us know how widespread the outage really was: school was delayed two hours, that the classrooms might have time to heat up enough to sustain even the most heavily bundled of students.

We don't have all the answers, even now, of course. Over the course of a wonderfully foreshortened day (one class, and a trip to the grocery store with Darcie while her mother watched the baby) the rumor mill was fairly consistent, if mysterious: the power outage was "by the Windmill," the inn up the road a piece, according to the official school bulletin-board announcment about the delay and its pace-of-day ramifications, but the four lane road that passes the school was blocked for miles of detour until long past sundown, and Darcie's mother reports a military convoy heading into the no-longer-dead zone when she drove in just after lunch.

Still, it's nice to be warm again, online and in the glow of soft lighting; was nice, earlier, to dance with the baby to the web, and snuggle in to watch the Muppet episode guest-starring Alice Cooper later on, as Darcie made a neo-tex-mex supper (long-grained rice, chicken and salad with avocado, onion, and mangoes) on our electric range; will be nice to sit in the glow of a taped-last-night ER with Darcie soon, once the baby falls asleep. And I am thankful for the modern conveniences, even under the light of the ovoid moon; thankful that we can choose to turn off the lights and see it if we wish, and that we do not have to, because it's too damn cold out there to visit it for long, though nice and toasty here, where a faint smell of mango lingers in the warm kitchen air.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:33 PM |

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