9.14.2006

Hurry Up and Slow Down

As I drive home, the blank and colorless traffic signals for the last three blocks could have tipped me off to a problem, but they didn’t. Not in a grand way. Traffic lights go out all the time. It’s hardly noteworthy.

When I pull up to my building, flicking at my garage door opener to no response, I still don’t react. It often takes two or three presses to activate the aging device. But when I get a full view of the lightless garage through the mesh gate, an eerie quiet slides over the scene like a horror film moment. Electricity to the entire neighborhood is out.

The technology gods are at it again, roughhousing in the heavens, knocking out my utilities, forcing me to slow down and take notice.

I pull my car into the exterior guest spot, and climb the outside stairs to the building’s side entrance. Opening the door, I see the windowless hallways are pitch-black, the back-up emergency lights clearly not backing up anything.

I walk to the front of the building, to the stairway graced with windows, climb to the third floor, and think, “Two weeks ago no water. Now, no power. Coincidence? I think not.”

We all dance with spirituality in our own way.

Months ago I was speaking to my decidedly non-spiritual friend via our cell phones when suddenly – yet certainly not surprisingly – our conversation abruptly ended. My friend was at her gym peddling away on a stationary bike where I know she’s not supposed to use her cell phone, so when she didn’t call back, I figured another exercise enthusiast had sat down beside her and snarled, prompting her to end the call.

Hours later when she never called back, I picked up the phone. “What happened to you?” I asked.

“When we got disconnected, I took it as a sign that we shouldn’t talk longer at that moment,” she explained.

“This is how you find spirituality?” I asked. “By way of your cell phone?”


As I find my way into my unpowered home, I decide to take this latest environmental intervention as a sign for me to slow down. I can gamble with the life of my laptop battery and power it on to write or take a break and turn from technology.

I reach for a book. A printed book. Of the paper kind.

I often feel as if I’m cheating to step away from my own work and enjoy someone else’s, forgetting that if we never did this, there’d be little point in any of us creating. But conditioned to plow forward, I find giving myself permission to not progress challenging.

Thirty minutes later, I’m startled from my calm when the power returns in an energetic poof! My dog leaps from the sound of technology surging to life all around him, and he starts trembling as if the apocalypse is moments away. No matter how I try to reassure and comfort him, he shakes and shakes. How can I explain electricity to my Chihuahua when I can’t even explain it to myself?

And suddenly I have no excuse to keep me from work. But the characters in the book on my lap call to me, plead to tell me more of their story. They promise me I will have time to tell my own, that sometimes the best way to move forward is to stay still. And because I have been forcing and pushing and tensing and straining, I decide to listen. After all, these characters may know something I don’t.

4 comments:

aynaku said...

interesting writing...i lived a few years witout eletricity and running water in some remote Asian islands and it was really formative!!!
(tnx for your comment on aquarium)

V-Grrrl said...

"Sometimes the best way to move forward is to stay still"

Brilliant.

ecm said...

I really like when the power goes out and there is only candlelight. Sometimes its return breaks the magic.

rachel said...

I love power failures, sitting infront of the fire with candles lit, very grounding