The lightness of being in the dark

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In late October, the electricity was off for at least six hours because of a windstorm that came howling through Montreal at 70-100 kilometres an hour, leaving small-scale destruction in its path.

It was hard to drive on the dark streets, and some motorists weren’t taking turns at intersections where the traffic lights were out.

But most illuminating was the realization of how dependent we are on electricity. We came home at 9pm from dinner out to a dark house. After lighting candles and gathering in the living room, we wondered what we were going to do.

No TV! No reading or reading by candlelight, which our eyes are not used to. No playing board games, which we don’t really do anymore—and it would be hard to read the boards. Trivial Pursuit? Dated.

So what did we do? We sat around and talked about life and its deeper meaning and how our lives seem somehow shaped and determined by unnatural light and power. When all subjects were exhausted, we got into bed, making sure to tell one another to “turn off” the candles.

Then we tried to sleep, thinking that if we fell asleep at 10:30pm we might wake up earlier, like the pioneers did, in time to milk the cows and hear the roosters.

Alas, no such thing occurred. Around 3 am the lights went on, the TV started up, and the glow of the night was rudely interrupted.

Perhaps we ought to do this more often: turn off the lights and the TV and radio and the Internet and talk to one another!

Throughout December, we explore the themes of light and dark and finding warmth in the cold of winter.

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