Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Our power went out this morning, which came as a real surprise. We live in the country, with all the power lines strung from pole to pole rather than being buried safely underground, so we often lose the power in the winter, what with wind storms, freezing rain, or the occasional dump of wet snow.

But just this week I emptied the jugs of drinking water on the counter that had been sitting there since the last wind storm, thinking we'd got off easily this winter: one very brief power outage, and we weren't even home when it happened. Somehow, semi-subconsciously, I thought the power failure season was done.

According to BC Hydro the reason for this outage was a tree down across a power line. I'm wondering if it wasn't BC Hydro itself that was responsible: they've been replacing a number of the power poles in the neighbourhood, and at the same time taking down a whole bunch of the trees that would be most likely to take out a line if they fell. Maybe a tree fell in a different direction than planned, or the crew lost control of a big branch as it came down.

In any case, we spent the morning in the dark. Kim went off to do some errands, so I was on my own - just me, my day's plans thrown awry because they all required electricity, looking for things to do in the murky half-light of a cloudy morning. I found a few jobs I could do (really exciting things like filing), but mostly what I discovered was the quiet.

No radio in the background. No hum of the fridge or whoosh of the dishwasher. No click of fingers on a computer keyboard. No phone ringing. Just deep, heavy, calming quiet. As I sorted through bills and bank statements I became aware of the sound of my own breathing and I was amazed at how noteworthy that was. My breath travels around with me every day - why don't I notice its sound more often? Then Frankie came into the room in search of a comfortable spot to snooze, and the sound of his snoring joined my breath in a companionable, peaceful counterpoint.

How did my life get so noisy? Noise was something I took for granted in my old life, but in my new, improved Mucky Boots life I thought I had a different kind of balance. But somehow the background chatter and hum has snuck up and overtaken the quiet again, so that the sound of my own breath comes as a surprise.

And maybe it's more than just noise. Maybe all that background electromagnetic radiation from computers and clock radios and wireless modems and cordless phones creates an inaudible sort of racket that I don't notice until the power goes out and everything goes dark. Which might help explain how simple and peaceful and calm things felt around here this morning.

I'm beginning to cast a new eye on the main breaker switch on our fuse box. Maybe some homemade power outages are in order.


Shim Farm said...

I so enjoy the peace and quiet of a nice power failure now and again. It's great to get rid of all the gray noise, isn't it? I'm at the point I don't even turn on the radio anymore - the constant blather now does me in.

Invest in a few Aladdin lamps, and you're all set!

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

There is a teacher in the Seattle School district who gave a homework assignment of "unplugging" from everything for a week.
No phones, no tv, no computer, no radio. Silence and stilled fingers and hands.

This homework assignment was so popular that the students began unplugging on their own.

The number one thing they said they liked about it was that they felt calmer and more in control.

jeanives said...

Nice post; meditative and beautifully written. The images of clicking fingers and lazy dog are perfectly articulated in such a few syllables.

Rae said...

I always used to love when the power was out. My mom and I would drink tea and read by the light of oil lamps. Very peaceful. Now, when the power goes out, it's still peaceful, but for the worry over 100s of lbs of meat in the freezers. :)

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Hi Miriam! THANKS for the e-mail about your blog! I'm glad it came back. I popped over on Sunday and was so taken by your little video, that I have watched 3 times that I didn't comment--I just loved it and am envious that you had and have such talent in your home! I really love music and the viola is one of my favorites and the banjo accompanying it just gives it a whole new sound. Speaking of sounds, there's nothing like the peaceful rhythmic sounds of your life when all around you is silent, is there?

Flartus said...

Hmmm...I'm gonna start thinking about flipping the breaker,too. Except we live so close to the airport, I'd probably start noticing the planes again!

Paula said...

That's kind of funny- you complaining about noise when you live in the country. I adore quiet, and some day, probably not until I'm dead, I'm going to have some.

Which is probably just as well; if I had some I don't think I'd know what to do with it.

Glad you got to enjoy some today.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

I love this post !
Quiet is something I crave often, I switch off the phone ringers, no tv or radio, just the sound of well....quiet :)
What a beautiful picture inside your quiet home, perfect !
Today it snowed, it takes quiet to another level...

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