It was a Tuesday, my day off. That morning, I was tending to my house (which, since the pandemic, was slowly morphing into its own episode of “Hoarders”) and babying my tomatoes and myself, and trying to keep the plants from falling down, and then the winds picked up and a branch hit my head, and another one hit my son’s car, and I realized that Toto, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
My writing teacher would say that sentence was the opposite of an “economy of words.”
To tell the truth, I’ve never lived in Kansas. Not that I have anything against that great state, where Superman came from, and the home of the sunflower, and the Jayhawk, and the wheat and magical tornados. But I might as well have, because hurricane-force winds were battening my hatches. (Not quite sure where the hatches are located, but I know they were battened).
As the sun rose on the destruction, I saw half of my trees were splattered all over my lawn, and a giant branch was planted in my son’s Nissan. Suddenly, I heard four or five explosions. After the last one, the lights went out.
When I was a child, the power going out was exciting. It was dark, and stormy, and just like every romantic, gothic novel it would end in an epic romance. Adventure was nigh. Candles were flickering. Matches were necessary. Flashlights were… a rare commodity because they were inevitably misplaced and impossible to find in the dark.
So Tuesday morning, I thought this whole thing had better end in an epic romance.
“The power should only be out 24-48 hours,” the electric company said.
I went to Walmart and bought flashlights and batteries and kerosene tanks and placed them in strategic positions throughout the house.
And it got cold. Not a pleasant cold, but more like the opening scene of “Game of Thrones.” I said to my sons in my deepest gravelly voice, “Winter is not just coming. Winter is here. Makes you miss the murder hornets, doesn’t it?”
My younger son looked at me very seriously and said, “WHY WOULD YOU MAKE ME LIVE HERE?”
So, the kids went to stay at their dad’s as I worked to restore power by hitching myself up a telephone pole and thrusting a bunch of plugs into random holes. (Don’t try that at home. Try it at a friend’s house.)
When that didn’t work, I returned to the house where I found myself in a dark, silent solitude.
When the power goes out, it’s a silence you’re not used to. Five days passed. Imagine them passing with a musical montage of me getting ready for work in the dark, trying to read by the light of the propane heater, and being very alone with my thoughts.
I decided that I could live without power. Heck, the pioneers did it. I cleaned some and sewed some and knitted some knickers and what were the pioneers complaining about? This was easy.
I was a monk in a monastery. I was zen in the den. I was alone with my thoughts and doggone it, my thoughts made great company. I was serenity embodied. I felt the power of not needing light. Not relying on electricity.
Around midnight on the fifth night, I realized I could do this forever. In fact, if I had the choice, I would totally do this for—
Suddenly the lights came on and THANK YOU UNIVERSE I WILL NEVER DOUBT YOU AGAIN BECAUSE NO POWER SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!
I lunged for my computer and dove into the internet and let the pixels wash over me like a warm shower from heaven. I bathed in the light bulbs. I became one with the washing machine. (I also realized how many lights I had on. It was like Dodger Stadium. And It. Was. Beautiful.)
Soooooo, I guess this zen pioneer just might choose electricity after all.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.