|2003 Blackout, Northeast USA|
Of course, in 2011, our facile first assumption is that the lights will be back on shortly, but then, as the hours drag by oh so slowly, the possibility of days (weeks?) without power begins to gnaw timidly at the brain, leading to speculation about the collapse of our world and all that that would mean. Laugh if you will, but weeks of subzero cold coupled with an inadequate response from civil authorities would make people with firearms glad that their weapons don't depend on electricity for utility. Milktoast that I am, I don't own weapons, so when I jumped at loud noises just outside my bedroom window in the middle of night (causing Barney and Mama to scamper), I looked around for any object that might offer protection (a kitchen knife being the best I could manage). Nothing happened and I later surmised I'd merely heard ice-laden tree limbs crashing first on the roof and then the yard.
As electrical lighting became popular, dramatic alterations occurred quickly. In just a few decades the world went from being mostly dark at night, to being as brightly lit as it wants to be. The reason paintings of evening parties pre-1830 appear to be so dark is that in real life such affairs were hard to illuminate. When electricity replaced candles (or the messy, smelly gas lights of the day), people could see each other too clearly so fashions had to change dramatically. Some people, including portions of the upper classes, resisted electricity because it wasn't "romantic." But the middle class saw its advantages, and soon electricity was everywhere. It still is.
We tend to live the future, or—the very luckiest of us—in the moment (I don't mean me). But we rarely stop to appreciate what we have, where we are. When electricity deserts us we're forced to confront the basic realities of life. But as soon as it returns it's all too easy to resume our 21st century life with nothing more than a little sigh of relief. Oh, but, people, that would waste a wonderful opportunity! Readers of this blog know I'm star-struck by how lucky we are to be born now, here.
Find that wonder with me!
My electricity returned in the evening on February 2nd, which was, as it happens, Groundhog Day. I never saw an official report so I'm making this up, but I'll bet when Punxsutawney Phil was asked how soon we'll be basking in nice spring weather, he uttered the groundhog equivalent of "@%* ¥ *?_# $!!!"
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