Power Outages, Tree Emergencies, and Simpler Days

Two weeks ago, Seattle’s summer of hot sunny days seemingly came to a screeching halt. Rather than easing into fall weather, we plunged head first with a rain and windstorm that kept first responders, utility companies, and tree removal services employed around the clock.

Our uneventful tea-sipping morning got a whole lot more exciting when one of our trees crashed to the ground. Everyone was safe. Nothing was damaged. Police and utility companies responded. We were just one of the many crashing trees in our quiet little waterfront town that was at the mercy of wind sweeping in off the Puget Sound. Just as we lined up a tree removal company to come out, a second one of our trees also crashed to the ground.

As the typical accompaniment to trees all around, a power-outage surely followed early that afternoon. No internet, no electricity and the temptation to devour the sure-to-melt pint of ice cream in the freezer – funny how remarkably less concerned I was about my frozen broccoli.

It was nearly midnight and I was pounding out a draft of a post by candlelight and residual laptop battery-life. Raindrops pounding the skylights, wind whipping through the trees, gutters simultaneously clogged with fallen tree particles and overflowing with rainwater. Apparently the only scented candles I own – or was able to locate in the dark – were Pumpkin Spice scent so it really smelled like Fall.

But, candlelight. So peaceful. If electricity weren’t so darn convenient and if styling hair, ironing clothes, washing clothes (Did I mention we were in the middle of a wash and dry cycle that included nearly every garment we own when we lost power?), and only about 100 other things weren’t dependent upon its existence, I just might say “to hell with it!” Because, there is nothing quite like the calmness of candlelight.

In our culture, a simple event like a power outage alters our behaviors, habits, activities in a marked way. Whole cities shut down. We turn to board games, books, puzzles, flashlights, and shadow puppets when we otherwise may have surfed the web, watched a movie, channel surfed, or gone out with friends. Aside from the aforementioned hair and laundry situations, I love power-outages and event like them that force people into relationship and interaction with others in manners that cause us all to lose the veneer and dive into the authenticity of who we really are. A time away from the outside junk of life – because in general everything else is junk.

It is so culturally acceptable for us to hide behind our devices, have meaningful interactions with complete strangers online, and reference our favorite television shows as if they were family. Online friendships require little effort, investment, or risk. “Like” an Instagram post here or there. Comment on their Facebook status. Genuine? Maybe. Deeply invested in their day-to-day lives? Not in the least.

The other night I found myself answering work emails at the dinner table – something I would have hollered at Tim for, which he, of course, pointed out. So this weekend we are getting away from the junk that clutters our lives. Our phones will scarcely have service. Email access will be limited. We won’t bring computers. No, TV. Just us, a ferryboat, good books, hiking boots, beaches, kayaks, an island to explore, and real uninterrupted conversations.

It’s about time we all got rid of the everyday distractions from time to time and opt for genuine conversation, interaction, and relationship. Often times we don’t have something like a power outage to force us into taking a breath of fresh-unplugged air, so we must choose to make our own “power outages.” We have to make our own breath of fresh air.

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