Four days without power and some interesting things start to happen.
My body started listening to the cycle of the sun and the moon. Without artificial light in the house, I began to get tired when the sun went down and woke rested with the sun’s return.
Laughter was our very best medicine, as someone would call for a flashlight halfway to the bathroom, suddenly surprised they could not find their way. We created some very interesting meals in the first few days with no light, trying to use what was in the refrigerator before it went bad, often spreading out a picnic blanket near a window, not at all in the rhythm of a normal day.
So much music. Songs created out of beautiful boredom, piano practiced by candlelight.
Cell phones were used as tools instead of crutches. The power our cell phones had was reserved to check when the power might return or to hear if friends were alright, but not to search the internet, email, or text.
We noticed that we were looking into each other’s eyes more, talking more. We created enough light with candles to read and to do a puzzle together.
There was somehow more space, more time, and a joy I didn’t know we had lost.
It shouldn’t take a storm from a hurricane taking away power to remind us of what was there all along, but I certainly needed the reminder. The lights went off and my spirit woke up.
Then, overnight, our power returned and so did the return to our regular lives. It was somewhat of a shock. There is a beauty in a rhythm of schedules and meals, but to return to that after a period of unexpected rest was a substantial gear shift.
Since the return of power and schedule, my family has been talking about what made those four days without power special for us. We need to light candles more often and “unplug” from our phones and other electronics. We need to make space, even if (especially when) it doesn’t feel like we have time. We need to recognize the gift of being with those we love, without gadgets and activities and a relentless schedule.
A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter brought home a wonderful assignment from school. Students were asked to take a walk outside and to choose a place they can return to in about a month. They were all given journals and asked to bring a pencil to write with and colored pencils to use for sketching. My daughter immediately said she wanted to go to one of her favorite places not too far from our house. We all went together as a family. That day, I experienced the same gift that I experienced in the four days without power, and I am noticing more and more what the gifts of stillness and awareness bring to all of us. Ashlee Eplee, my daughter’s teacher, gave me permission to share her instructions for this assignment (thank you so much, Ashlee). I hope you will consider doing it on your own and then return to the same place a month later with the same questions.
- What do you see? Describe in words and pictures what your eyes are perceiving. What do you see close up? What do you see far away? What colors are here? What is living in this habitat? What questions do you have?
- What do you hear? Describe in words and pictures what your ears are perceiving. The best way to listen is to close your eyes. What do you hear in the distance? What do you hear that is near you? Why do you hear these sounds in this habitat? What questions do you have?
- What do you feel? Describe in words and pictures what you can touch. What do you feel below your feet? What things can you touch and what things should you not touch? Why are these textures in this habitat? What questions do you have?
- What do you smell? Describe in words and pictures what you can smell. What does the smell remind you of? Where does the smell come from? What questions do you have?
Whether you are unexpectedly without power or on a nature walk, this season beckons us to listen. Take the time to notice the people and the natural things around you. They are the doorways to joy.
“Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film.” – Ansel Adams