Sunday afternoon I was laying underneath the truck my youngest son drives trying to get the starter motor out to replace it. It was cold, snow lay all around me and the only warm thing in sight was the glow of the work light I had propped up on the frame of the truck.
As is my usual luck, the bolts that secured the starter in place were a different size than the thirteen sockets I had crawled under the truck with, so I had to go back to the garage to get the two out of the set I had left behind on my workbench.
When I returned, I squeezed my way back under the vehicle (hard for me nowadays between my bad knees and the 40 pounds I have put on since I was 29) and low and behold, I found the light had gone out. I cussed and crawled back out and went into the house to get a bulb, thinking it had burned out.
"What are you doing?" my wife asked me as I dug through the pantry trying to find the light bulbs.
"This ______ bulb burned out while I was down at the garage," I told her.
"No it didn't she said," looking at me and laughing at the same time because of the grease streak that marked my big snout. "The powers off."
The phone rang. I didn't get it because my wife was holding me at bay with the broom so I would not walk in the house with my greasy boots. It was Karen Basso, my coworker in the editorial department at the Sun Advocate telling my son to let me know that she heard someone had run down a power pole on Carbonville Road and that she could not make it to take a photo.
So I went, just as I was. I'm sure all the county sheriff's that were at the scene got a big kick out of the grease I had spread all over my face. Anyway, I could see it was going to be some time before the power was restored, but by the time I got home I could see my wife was already on the ball, intrinsically understanding the situation better than I did from the beginning. She had a large blaze roaring in the living room fire place and while the dim light of the dying day was not being replaced inside our house by the glow of electric lights, she was illuminating the place with candles. She also had a big kettle of water siting by the grate in the fireplace warming up water for hot chocolate. It was a welcome site to return home to from that cold roadway a couple of miles away.
We had had plans that evening, but those plans required electricity, so that idea was kaput. My youngest son borrowed my vehicle to go somewhere and so it was very quiet in the house. The two of us sat in chairs in front of the fire place talking as it got darker and darker outside. The only lights I could see through the glass of my living room were dim candle lit windows of various neighbors homes and some electric lamps far off in the distance across the freeway. As the evening wore on, I began to like our little situation more and more. No humming of the refrigerator or groaning of the furnace that usually accompanies start up of the fan that blows heat in the house. No music from my sons loud stereo, no television to distract me and only the muzzled rumble of a few cars that drove down the street broke the almost silent sound of the fire fizzling in the brick and steel box that contained it.
We sat there holding hands, each in our own world and our own dreams staring at the dancing flames. My two house dogs lay in front of the fire snuggled together. I threw a lump of coal on the blaze and it's heat warmed the whole room even more. A trip to the bathroom made me realize just how much heat the house loses on a cold night, but upon my return to a chair warmed by the fire, I was comfortable once again. I found myself dozing off in the silence and my wife did the same. I dreamt like I haven't dreamt in a long time. I found myself laying on a tropical beach in one of those fancy chairs with a Corona by my side and the warm sun in my face. The waves drifted gently in and out (not surprisingly I noticed they sounded like a fire sizzling) and the feeling of peace was unimaginable.
Suddenly the sun got brighter and I heard a machine humming; just as suddenly I wasn't on the beach anymore. I was laying in my chair looking at the ceiling light that had popped on and the refrigerator had started it's cooling chores. It was nearly 8 p.m. and apparently things were, tragically for us, back in the modern mode.
But for just a little while, it was a different world; one where things were a little slower and life was more important than the gadgets that accompany it.
I remember when I was in high school I helped my uncle build a cabin one summer just south of Evanston, Wyo. in the Bear River station area. I remember sitting around the camp fire at night talking with him about his hopes and dreams and he told me about what the cabin would be like when we got done.
"I want a place I can get away, have a fire in the fireplace with no phones ringing, no boom-boom music (that's what he called the rock and roll I listened to) and not even a refrigerator running." There was to be no electricity in the cabin, and no gadgets of any kind.
It's on evenings like Sunday night that events make me realize what he meant and more importantly, why he meant it.