Georgia Power, we appreciate how hard you work to help us all when power goes off. But you may be too good.
The storms of late knocked trees over roads and power lines, wrestled roofs off our buildings, and left so many of us without power. Yet in spite of the physical challenges of having to move trees off lines, you managed to restore power for most folks sometime the next afternoon. That’s quite amazing (and appreciated). But could you take just a little longer next time?
You see, based on the conversations I’ve heard in the aftermath, quite a few folks enjoyed their experience — in spite of having to throw out the milk when it was all said and done. They enjoyed the power of being without power. They enjoyed the stillness.
We don’t often have stillness in our lives. We think we do but the fact is that we have a constant “hum” going on around us: the PC running, indicator lights flashing, the fridge humming, the washing machine whirring, the dishwasher sloshing. Even when we are “resting”, there is a lot of activity going on for our minds — TV babbling, music playing, flickers of photos and pristine houses scrolling across the tiny screens in our hands.
When the power went off this past weekend ... and we all realized it was going to be off for more than a few minutes ... it was then that we experienced stillness. The appliances were silent. The screens were put aside to save for a real “emergency.” The immediate world around us became quiet.
It was then we all realized that we had simply stopped. For most folks, even the chores and everyday busyness just stopped. Outside it was dark and quiet too. Because we could do nothing else, we did a novel thing — we sat together in one room and visited.
Now I think our family does a fairly good job of connecting regularly with one another. We eat meals together and have family game nights. But I realized the power of no power when we sat in the glow of candles and our 18-year-old came out of his room and talked about the future as another child drew in her sketchbook by headlamp. I realized the power of no power as we played a game, laughing as we passed the flashlight along with the playing piece each time. We felt as if we were on an adventure. And this strange thing happened: In spite of getting so little accomplished that day physically, we went to bed feeling strangely satisfied and connected. It was the kind of connection that cannot be found on Pinterest or Facebook.
When our son woke up the next morning and commented how nice the evening before had been, I couldn’t help but wonder if I couldn’t somehow “fake” a storm blowing through our neighborhood. As if reading my mind, he said “We should re-create nights like that.” I think that is a great idea. So how might we go about that?
1) Like any good meteorologist knows, warnings and being prepared are key. Let the family know that a great big blustery storm is coming through and when it is anticipated. Let them know that the storm and the power outage won’t last forever but they should prepare by finding the candles and flashlights — and putting their phones and other screens into safe places where they can safely rest while the storm makes them inaccessible.
2) Cut the power. Or at least turn out the lights and turn off the appliances. Power down the computers and the internet. Put notes such as “storm in session” on all devices and light switches. Our goals are to have no internet, no lights, no dishwasher finishing a cycle, and no washing machine running a load, no hum in the background. Everything is off.
3) Grab your flashlights and the candles.
4) Spread out a picnic using just what you can find on hand ... and remember that the microwave is out too. Eat like you would if a storm suddenly knocked out the power. PBJ? Bread and carrot sticks? Soup heated just before the “storm” blew through? A bowl of cereal? Put the candles on the table and enjoy your make-shift meal.
5) Enjoy the stillness of a house gone quiet. Sit and talk using a list of questions (written on paper of course) that you created ahead of time. You can find some neat questions simply by googling “conversation starters for families.” I suspect you can come up with your own if you try as they really aren’t complicated. Examples include, “Name your three favorite foods.” “Would you rather travel to the mountains or the beach and why?” “If you could talk to any famous person, who would that be?” “You’ve just inherited a million dollars, what do you do with it?” Are you not sure what to talk about? Talk about the day, the week, the dreams.
6) Play a game, tell a story, share a memory.
Then, sometime before the night goes on too long, flicker the lights back on ... power is restored! But do not fear, for there will be another night of no power again in the coming months. You can enjoy the power of a night with no power most anytime.