What we hold when lightning strikes

Winds hurled hail sideways, pelting the windows like bullets.

“Mommy daddy mommy daddy!”

Our son runs down the stairs in a panic. I hold him.

Then a crrrrack is followed by a thump. The floor shook as if a dumbbell was dropped upstairs where our daughter sleeps. No sound came from her.

My wife ran up and brought her down, her eyes fighting the living room light. It was then that the power went out.

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The limb fell only feet from the dormer window where she sleeps.

There is nothing like the fear of death and loss of electricity to put things in perspective.

It is alarming how much you think you lose when you lose electricity—nothing powering the router that puts a world of information at your fingertips—nothing powering the refrigerator that cools your supply of food—nothing even to power the sound machine that helps your baby sleep at night. The suddenness of the still dark makes you anxious.

Then you realize not much has actually changed.

My children and my wife were safe. My wife nursed our daughter, and gave our son a snack. I still felt the urge to write, as I usually do at the end of the day. Only now I had to write in free-hand. I did, and it felt good to write by hand with my son at the table next to me, munching away. It felt more transparent. No rectangular screen hid my thoughts from him.

Don’t get it twisted. We didn’t go Robinson Crusoe or Cast Away that night.

Castaway

Wilson! What are we gonna do now?!

I wrote the bulk of this post in pen—not quill—under the fluorescent glow of a battery-charged lantern—not candlelight. My son sat next to me eating Aged White Cheddar Pirate’s Booty for God’s sake.


But I still felt a return to something more primal, more instinctual.  


Without the draw of twitter, or pull of the NBA Playoffs, I was free to consider what truly mattered to me in that moment. It wasn’t social media, or anything accessible by internet or wireless data. Holding my son on the couch, I realized all that mattered was in my arms.

 

After everyone was back asleep after midnight, I took our dog for a walk.

She had been shivering under the bed for an hour, afraid of the storm. My block looked apocalyptic, branches everywhere, no hum of streetlights overhead. Just the wind, and the glow of distant lightning in the sky.

As I round the corner for home, porch lights flickered; power was restored. The subtle glow of fluorescent light filled the road once again. As the street light merged eerily with the stormy iridescent night sky, something became clear to me.

All that we take as modern is only a reinvention of the ancient.

How different really are emojis from hieroglyphics? Only the walls where we paint them have changed. The need to communicate hasn’t changed, only the forum in which we share experience.

We want so hard to differentiate ourselves from history, to be on the cutting edge of civilization, to stand uniquely ahead of our past. But no matter where technology takes us, it cannot change the fact that we are human. Our technology will always be only an extension of us.


We are what truly matters in life. The things we use don’t.

9 Responses to “What we hold when lightning strikes

  • Another amazing post. Just, wow.

    I am glad your daughter was safe.

    • Thanks Birdie. The blessing in disguise was a tree expert came and trimmed the hell out of the tree. It’s huge and was not safe. This was just the sign we needed, maybe.

  • This post seems to be whirling all around in the storm, but brings us right back to what is simple and true….our humanity. We are just people and more than anything we want to connect with one another, but we want to feel safe while doing it, and sadly computer screens and distance seems to provide that. Not to mention that we can connect with the masses vs just a few real life people each day. I am so glad baby girl was ok….I wish you could have been a fly on the wall while I was reading this. I gasped…. “Oh my gosh! oh no!!”
    Lastly, a story….we had a neighbor who was building a house and he took down a tree and it knocked the power out for a whole night. No internet, no tv…panic! What will we do?! We got the flashlights out and played flashlight tag and hide and seek in the dark in the house. We had so much fun running up and down all of our stairs and hiding in dark closets and trying to keep the dogs from barking and giving us away. I ended up writing a letter to the editor (small town life LOL) thanking the neighbor for knocking out the power and giving us the gift of that night together. We now have a generator (which I was sad about getting because I knew that we would never really get to be disconnected again) and my husband faithfully keeps us all hooked up. We live in the mountains and in the winter the power can go off for several days. Bless you Mark.

    • The gasp! That’s exacly how we felt when we heard that thump. So that’s what I was trying to get readers to feel!
      The story sounds familiar to power outages of old. Hurricaine Bob hit the east coast and we lost power for a week straight. We’d sit around and play cards and tell stories. It’s funny, I can remember it so clearly–no distractions at all! Mountain living is my dream. I’m in suburbia!

  • I like how you describe the hint of modern in your return to rustic (pirates booty, electric lantern). Losing power with young children in the house is a different ballgame. And I journal longhand most mornings with my favorite pen. Sometimes I’ll get ideas for more focused pieces, but then I always go to the laptop. I type faster and can’t imagine writing a polished piece on paper, which makes me a little sad. Glad there was only minimal damage from the storm!

    • Thanks Kristen. It felt really good to write long-hand. I’m the same way. Hand-writing was always hard for me. Even as a kid. I just seemed to get ideas faster than my hand could keep up. I can type real fast. Almost fast enough to keep up with my the swirling world in between my ears. I think a return to free-hand might be good for me. Thanks for visiting!

  • I still love writing, however, I love pencils, .5 to be specific. LOL. I’m faster with the keyboard, but prefer the creative aspect of paper.

    Glad everyone is okay.

    The main trigger for me in this post was the line about communication. As of late I have noticed that I am intent on hearing, really hearing. I find myself asking, “What are you trying to tell me?” a lot. Just this morning I heard me saying it to me. This simple step of observing my communication to self has taken an interesting turn. What am I trying to say versus what am I saying is the Q for today. Guess I better keep my journal and pencil with me today LOL.

    • Got to! Listen and write, write and listen. Your post reminds me of The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. Have you read it Lisa? It’s all about the things we say to ourselves.

  • I laughed out loud with that photo from the movie “Cast Away.” WILSON!!!

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