We knew it was coming. The weather stations gave plenty of warning. This was not our first experience with deep, sighing, thunderous winds, so I finished cooking our nighttime meal early-- leaving it in the oven to stay warm, filled every container in the house including the bathtub with water, and then put some ice in a cooler.
I was outside feeding my chickens when I heard a crack then watched a tree spin, twist and hit the ground. The power went out an hour later. There were no warning blinks, just lights on one minute. Out the next. You forget how noisy your house is until it’s not anymore. The refrigerator stopped humming, the fan that moves air into our living room was quiet. The television silenced.
The worst power outage we’ve ever been through happened during the first time we ever heard the word “derecho”. We were powerless for three days and the National Guard set up a post in our county for water and a hot meal.
It was summer so we ate canned food from the cellar that we heated on our grill, played board games by candlelight, dipped drinking and flushing water from our spring, and showered in cold river water silvering up through a hose attached to a gas-powered pump. That was probably my favorite part of the three-day outage…standing naked in the sunshine, spraying my husband with cold water, and dancing around screaming and laughing as we hosed off. The rumble of generators blanketed the county.
This power outage was shorter and quieter. I had planned to celebrate my oldest son’s birthday, so a peanut butter pie waited in the fridge along with a bowl of coleslaw. Meanwhile, the ribs I had started earlier were done. Joe and I jumped in the truck and visited both boys and their wives to tell them the party was still on.
It was a magical night. Candles flickered on every surface and I draped cabinets with my battery-powered Christmas lights. The flames, dancing in the window of my woodstove, gave a flickery glow to the dining room.
As the last paper plate was dropped in the stove, and left-overs wrapped in foil, I reflected on the gift of the wind. The Danes have a word for what I felt around my table. It means a special sort of cozy brought about by low lights, family and good food. The wind gave us the low lights and the rest of the joy came in the door with my children.
Whenever the power goes out, at first there’s a sense of panic. But at our house it’s usually followed by a sense of grace. Electricity separates us, sending humans into separate spaces to stare at flickering screens. When the electricity is out, there’s nothing left for us to do but enjoy each other. The grace of our family’s love shines in the darkness, outlined by candles and laughter. Perhaps it’s time to think about the lesson of the wind and put a little more hygge in our busy lives.