On Silence and The Whirr of Life

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Last night, as I was plugging links and pictures into this week’s newsletter* before bed the power went out for the third time in as many months and I thought, “so this is how 2016 is going to be.”

To be fair, three times in as many months when they are the stormiest months of the year isn’t so bad out here and none of those have been long drawn out affairs. I remember plenty of times in the past decade when we have had it worse; when the power has been out for days at a time. We spent a week a few winters back with a tractor generator purring outside our bedroom window. It was frigid that year and snowy and blustery and we had a few outages if I remember correctly. The years run together a bit after a while, but I think that was also the winter when the snow in the paddock behind the horse barn was waist deep by Christmas and somehow the unheated barn felt warm compared to the double-digit negatives outside while one of my best friends and I would stand around in our carhartt overalls having a beer and a chat every night after work, oblivious to the risk of frostbite and the wolves of winter nipping at the old barn door.

At least in the winter you don’t have to worry about your food going bad; just tuck it in the barn freezer or a snowbank and wait for the power company to get the grid back up and running again. Last night it wasn’t frigid or snowy or blowy though so I double-checked the outage map on my phone to make sure we didn’t need to set up an alternative power source. When you raise your own meat and keep two freezers full of it, you become intimately aware of both the value and the cost and you take no chances.

It was moderate and rainy, but since there seemed to be little risk of an extended outage — the map showing just two outages in the whole state — it was kind of nice to sit in the silence and listen to the patter of raindrops against the windows and roof in the wake of the first thunderstorm of 2016.

No matter how often the power goes out I always forget how much white noise there is from the whirr of electrical appliances when it’s on. At first, the silence is always exactly as they say: deafening. But then, I have found, that if I let it, it becomes restorative in its simplicity and lack.

So I sat and listened and observed and composed passages for a book I’m working on in my head, and then on paper by candlelight. And when I noticed that the clock had long since clicked over from Wednesday night to Thursday morning, I met up with my pillow and a favorite handmade quilt, knowing I would wake to the whirr of life again a few hours later.

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