Our electricity company kindly informed us that the power would be out for twelve hours for urgent repairs recently. One a.m. to one p.m. on a Saturday.
Being the height of summer at the time, we were thankful it wasn't brutally hot and that being warned we were able to buy bulk ice for the freezer, and flashlights for us.
I stayed up, talking to one of my teenagers, wanting to see if the electricity company meant what it said. The one a.m. deadline passed and we relaxed. Then suddenly, just as we'd got back into conversation and forgotten the imminent power outage, all the fans stopped, and we and the whole neighborhood were in the dark.
City folk, we don't see dark. We see comfortable semi-dark. Unless you drive on the road that bisects Harvard's Arnold Arboretum, the largest open space in Boston, when for a brief moment you experience absence of light. The velvety, tree-shade dark that reminds me of unlit country roads in New Hampshire. Just long enough to shiver before you pop back into the world of orange street lights, back where it's comfortable city again.
So to enjoy the city, eerie and quiet, I threw open the window screen in my bedroom ... and realized with a start how very bright the quiet night was. There was a full moon, a Super Moon.
What had been obscured by our house and street lights, now shone plainly. Long shadows stretched across the grass. The neighbor's flowers were almost colorful. I thought about the power of the sun, able to seer light through space, bounce off a celestial body and still retain enough oomph to cast such clear, crisp, defined shadows.
I called my daughter over to look and she could hardly believe we were seeing moonlight and not shadows cast by artificial light. We remembered the revolutionary era patriots escaping Boston at night under the watchful eye of the British: how frustrated they were by the full moon. Not a night for highwaymen either.
The closed off night has been given back to us by electric light: laundry, computing, reading; we think nothing of employing these evening hours. But artificial light has also stolen from us: repose, boundaries, a silvered view, it mattering where the moon resides in her cycle. I once sailed around the coast of England, training as a crew for the Tall Ships Race. We grew so accustomed to the rhythms of the tides and the cycles of the weather, we began to speak that language and read its signs. Back on land I felt dulled and confined, not needing to be in tune any more with those essential elements.
I glimpsed a quieter world that night when the lights went dark and we saw what was there all along. I enjoyed marveling and remembering the wonder of knowing those earth rhythms.