Friday, November 11, 2011


After a pitch-black, cold night listening to the awful sound of tree limbs cracking outside, it was pure joy to be awakened the next morning by the hum of all the electric infrastructure of my world coming back on – including the lamp next to my bed. (The last official act being part of a tantalizing chapter in a good book.) But that morning held even greater rewards: warmth, music – and coffee!

After the devastating nor’easter of October 29, most of Western Massachusetts and Connecticut woke up to an improbable winter landscape and no power. As the week wore on, the recorded messages from town officials kept reporting only very gradual return of power, and the opening of shelters and warming stations. Our neighborhood became a refuge for family and friends whose homes continued to be “off the grid”. My friend, Elise, whose power didn’t get restored until Friday, came over for a shower most nights.

All this past week the weather has been beautiful – sunny, with temperatures climbing towards sixty degrees. Elise had a day off from work, and we went for a walk. She told me that, in a way, she was disappointed when her electricity finally came back on. She would come home every day to find that her house was still dark and cold. She would put her thermals on, so never felt the chill, and then she would – relax. With no power there was really nothing that could be done, so there were no pressing matters to attend to, and no expectations. And later, she would snuggle into bed for a really good night’s sleep, cozy and warm, under layers of blankets.

In her book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston describes the Balinese annual Space Clearing ceremony, called Nyepi. On the night before Nyepi, there are parades, fireworks, crashing symbols, and music making at full-blast to scare away the angry or low-level spirits. On the next day, silence reigns over the island. No one is allowed to work or go out; fires are not lit; there is no drinking, smoking, or gambling; and no radio, telephone, or TV. In many villages, electricity is shut off. It is a day for quiet contemplation of the year that has ended, and prayers for the year to come.

Now that the lights are on again in our communities, there is little wish to return to those dark days of last week. But, for those who were able to adjust to nature’s own version of Nyepi, all the surprises were not bad. Even then, there was a glass half full…