Snow Sunday: Blackout

Snow Sunday: Blackout

When a huge boulder knocked out Telluride’s power a few weeks ago and the entire valley went black for close to 24-hours, a curious thing happened: most of the town was thrilled. People lit candles and settled in for the long night, many of them surrounded by the comfort of friends. Maybe the reason was the long weekend, so people were more relaxed, or maybe it was because after living at close to 9,000 feet, we’re more understanding when things don’t work; whatever the reason, Telluride’s reaction was a far cry from most of America’s when the power shuts down.

IMG_7312On our end, we’d planned to ski for another hour—Andy’s entire family was in town—but instead, we raced home to gather candles and headlamps to prepare for the dinner party we’d planned. Andy and I knew from prior power outages in Telluride that when they actually send a text, things are going to take a while.

When we first moved to town 14 years ago, the power went out quite frequently. The funny thing is that we didn’t find it that strange. We had just spent the past seven months traveling and volunteering in East Africa and India and were used to that flicker of light and that whoosh of sound that occurs before everything goes dark. We actually found it charming, sitting amidst a few candles and talking while we waited for the power to resume; it helped us to transition from the temporal world we’d left to the future-obsessed world we once again inhabited.

But then several years ago, town did some updates to their power lines, so it had been a few years since we’d had an outage, and never one as major as this.

IMG_1717Andy got the grill ready, so that we could grill the lamb instead of roasting it, his sisters prepared the appetizers, my girls lit candles, while I set the table and made the margaritas. Darkness fell, faster than it usually did, and we were ensconced in a world of shadow. In this penumbral world, we got a glimpse of Telluride when it was first settled in the 1850’s, when the rhythms of the day largely mirrored the rhythms of the sun.

Our crew of eleven gathered around the candlelit table, opened wine, and dove into dinner—the darkness awakening in us some primordial hunger. It was a perfect way to toast our new house. Sitting in the glow of candles, on the eve of Valentine’s day, with a table of people I loved.

Andy and I stepped out on the deck after dinner. The valley was black, save the light of a few candles dancing in a few homes here and there. Above, the sky was miraculous, a whale of stars.

This must have been what the miners saw most nights. I thought of life back then, of what was gained; what was lost. I think I romanticize that time, the simplicity of it, the beauty of it, but if I am truly honest, it would also be a difficult time, especially for a woman, on whom the bulk of the domestic chores would fall. Life without dishwashers. Without washing machines. Without refrigerators.

Yet, looking up at that sky, it was a great feeling, knowing that everything I truly need and love exists without power. I can read and write, cook and dine, whisper stories to my children at night, all by the light of a few candles. And then when the sun comes up, I can go for a run and afterwards, jerry rig my camping stove and make coffee. Andy and I delighted in the thought of a dark night like this once a month, where we would turn off power and have our own mock Sabbath, a night of candles and of whispered stories. A night for us to remember what truly matters.

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