Last night the electric company turned off the electricity to our mobile home park for maintenance. We were given a few days warning, and asked to unplug all electronics and do without power for seven hours from 10 pm to 5 am.
How long has it been since I’ve spent a night in the actual dark?
I spent my childhood in rural Missouri, far from city lights. On summer nights I would leave my bed to lie on the grass and look at the overturned bowl of stars. I tried to count them. I imagined myself asea on the Milky Way. I tried to remember the time before I was born, when I was but a twinkle myself.
Back then, we lived next to RR 66, so there was an occasional truck or car going by as I lay out there. Sometimes I would hear an owl or a whippoorwill, maybe a dog barking in the distance. Our chickens were quietly roosting out back, the cat was somewhere hunting mice. No planes soared overhead.
Inside, our electricity powered our overhead lights, two lamps, and a refrigerator. Only the fridge would have been running to make any sound. My parents and sister slept in their beds.
Last night, I dutifully unplugged the electronics, turned out the lights, and retired before 10 pm. I left the fan on that I usually sleep with so I could fall asleep with it, and because I knew I’d appreciate it when it came back on in the early hours.
At 1:30 am I awoke to total silence and a dark house. I was curious to see what the world outside my door looked like without streetlights, without lights burning in all the houses around me. I crept out.
The moon was waxing gibbous as we are approaching the second full moon of March. Last night’s moonlight was bright enough for me to see clearly, and to reflect off shiny cars parked on the street. It was light with no shadow.
I could hear light traffic on the faraway freeway, but no cars were moving in our park. No people were out walking. No dogs were barking. No birds were calling.
And most noticeable of all: no electric equipment or electronics were humming.
I returned to bed, but falling asleep in silence turned out to be a challenge. Often when I’m sleepless, I read a book. No reading in the dark. I was alone with my thoughts.
And finally, my dreams.