One minute all was bright and the chatter of the universe was alive and well and bouncing into our landscape, and then -- in the twinkling of an eye -- a complete hush. Bop. That's it.
It's amazing, isn't it, how we pin our lives around electricity. Even more amazing was the beauty of the silence that rose up when the voltage shut down.
For me, the blackout turned out to be a blessing: The quiet was so large it encompassed everything; in fact, for a brief time it seemed to dominate the planet. Basking in this wealth of stillness, I went outside and watched a tree dancing in the wind. It had been a long time since I visited that tree, and I was quite taken by the charm of its incessant movement. Leaves waving every which way like young acrobats chatted about life and energy and natural splendor. The birds were doing their own talk show; one or two came and sat near me, no doubt encouraged by the appearance of an unexpected audience.
I thought: this is like being deep in the woods, where nature rules and we are small honored guests. The curtain of quiet drew me even further: I got up and wandered out to the street.
Here and there a number of people were emerging from their houses in a hurried way, climbing into cars and zooming off to still-open groceries. They were obviously worried about food going bad and running out of light at the end of the day. In my case, I was certain the blackout would be brief, and aside from finishing up a bowl of melting ice cream, I felt no concern about foodstuffs. If it went bad, OK. If it didn't, OK.
The truth is I was enjoying our electricity-deprived status. In lieu of kilowatts, I found myself invited to a party where absolutely everyone was in attendance: the trees, the grass, the wind, the pond, tall sprays of water from the fountain, small animals dancing on the lawn, and then, of course, myself -- standing against a green hedge holding an ice tea. It was like being afloat on a sea of calm.
Eventually I sat down against one of the cheerful host trees and mesmerized myself by watching a wild-child fountain spray acres of random mist into the sky, over and over. There were three ducks watching along with me.
A few hours later the party slowed down for its show-stopper event: a brilliant red, orange and lavender sunset which seeped across the sky like hot new paint and woke up even the flowers. We all stared at it, awestruck. Yes, I know the sunset comes every night and it's always breathtaking, but there was something hugely different about it this time.
On this night, I noticed it.