Unlike some of my schoolmates, we did have electricity on our farm and running water at least to the kitchen sink. Our overhead lights, a few outlets for the fan or radio, and a small refrigerator were the only things powered in the house. When night came, and the lights were out, the only sound inside was the occasional light hum of the small refrigerator. Living over a mile from the nearest neighbor made the hushed still of the night quite palpable. Deep in the night, the most extraordinary interruption of that silence came from nature – calling to mates, hunting for prey, or singing about the joys of being alive in the short time between birth and death. After a rain, the frogs would sing so loudly it was akin to hearing a deafening symphony orchestra, right outside the window. On other summer nights, the cicadas in the elm tree outside my window sang shrilly with an ebb and flow, as was their nature. Owls hooting, coyotes singing, and cattle lowing, rounded out a lullaby that rocked a country boy to sleep more pleasantly than any music produced by man.
One evening last week, our power went out just before dark. It stayed off for several hours. Gone silent were the refrigerator, icemaker, freezer, dishwasher, computer fans, and air conditioner. Our home is sealed tight with thick insulation in the walls and ceiling, double-paned windows that are never opened, and heavy entry doors with outer storm doors. The hush within our darkened home was interrupted by only our quiet breathing and footsteps. It’s a rare event for most of us living a modern, electric life and just a bit creepy. Even when we go outside, most of us go to our air conditioned car and arrive at some other climate controlled space.
As I sat in the tomb-like silence, awaiting the return of the lights, I had time to reflect on how dependent we all are on the utilities we easily take for granted. I considered all the items my wife and I had filled our 1800 sq. ft. home with, to the rafters seemingly. Devices from our comfort grip potato peeler to the air conditioner, require care and repair at some time or another. The lone paring knife of the 1950’s now sits with other assort blades in the knife holder while peelers, graters of various sizes, electric food processor, cheese slicer, and other tools wait to perform their specialized tasks. There are bins, drawers, and nooks with specialized gadgets that probably haven’t been used or seen in years. Some belong to my wife, and I may not even know what she uses them for, or if, indeed, they have ever been used. I contemplated the price we’ve paid for all of those (dare I say?) luxuries, not in dollars but in the burden of ownership they bring, as opposed to the help they give.
I read somewhere long ago that if you want more freedom and time, get rid of your excess stuff. Own what you have, do not let it own you. Oh! The lights are back on. I would continue writing on my tablet, but I have to stop and fill some boxes with stuff I’m giving away. Let’s see… How many baking pans do we have anyway? (Digs through yet another drawer.) Tart pans? We’ve never even eaten tarts made at home. Must belong to the wife. Anyone have a moving van I can borrow?
See you next week.