As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had quite the storm here the other week. The winds snapped some of our bamboo in half, a big tree decided to fall over and rest on our house, and our power went out. Which wasn’t unexpected. We thought it would come back up fairly quickly, but nothing doing. And although we had a generator sitting in the shed, we just couldn’t get it to work.
And when I say “we,” I really mean “not me.”
When night falls and you’re sitting in the dark with only a few candles lit and absolutely no electrical power, you realize how much of your everyday life is dependent on electronics. The initial smugness that you feel when you think, “Ha! My laptop is fully charged, you fool!” instantly dissipates when you realize that the modem, and hence any kind of internet connection, is down. There’s no catching up on chores either, since the vaccuum and the laundry machines run on electricity too. I didn’t lament that part too much.
Undaunted, and refusing to accept that we might be a bit too dependent on the power company, we found ways to entertain ourselves. First, Tim picked up his guitar and started strumming aimlessly. So I picked up mine, intending to maybe launch into a John Denver or Bread song. I don’t know what happened, but we instead ended up playing Yellow Bird, with Tom singing his Caribbean heart out. And, as is always the case when I play Yellow Bird, I threw it into a Jamaica Farewell mashup, which is always fun until you realize you just turned a 3-minute song into an 8-minute medley that just won’t end.
We finally got tired of that, so after 7 minutes, we decided to play word games. Using only names of ingredients, we went around, each one giving a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. We quickly found out that we really don’t know a lot of ingredients that begin with the letter E. And although I couldn’t tell clearly in the dark, I think I got a few dirty looks when I said “endive.” I don’t know exactly when the game ended, but I think it was right around the time we realized Tom was making words up and insisting, “No, that’s a real fruit/vegetable/seasoning/herb in Trinidad!”
It called to mind the time when I was growing up in the Philippines, where power outages (blackouts and brownouts, as we call them) were at one time fairly regular. Unfazed, we still played games outside, or sat at the piano singing every song that came to mind. Once, on the middle of one of the many failed coups during the late Corazon Aquino’s presidency, we spent an entire evening huddled in the dark in the basement of my uncle’s house, listening to the radio reports of snipers firing at vehicles on the road. As stressful as it was, when we think back on it now, what we mostly remember was my cousin breaking out her baby brother’s toy piano-harmonica hybrid (I have no idea what it’s called) and playing music almost all night long. We pretended it was a saxophone and soon forgot the chaos going on outside.
It’s such an indelible memory that about 15 years ago, when my cousin was going through old boxes of things in their house in Manila, she found the toy and sent it to me here. And I instantly understood the gesture, and the nostalgia behind it. I keep it in our family room, proudly displayed despite all the scratches and the chipped mouthpiece. And I play it still, always instantly transported back to that time as soon as the first note fills the air around me.
These days, when I need something to do idly besides reading, I mostly reach for my iPod and play a game of Scrabble, Kendoku, or Unblock Me. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But after our recent prolonged power outage, I realized that, aside from the supreme joy that it gives me, there’s something else that I get from music that I may have taken for granted before: its power to transform a dark, quiet, sparse space into something glorious, without the need for any source of external power but the one that’s already inside you.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m over the word games. I’m still kinda nerdy like that.
How about you? What would you do if you lost power for 24 or even 48 hours? Or, say you’re in the woods somewhere, in a tent maybe, and no, you can’t plug into your camper’s power source. And it’s too dark to read. (And you’re not allowed to sleep or just do nothing, or else a … a … a bunch of gangster bears will come and harass you. Yep, that’s right. You heard me. Gangster bears.) Do you have any favorite non-electronic games or activities that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Because, to be honest, I think the guys around here might smother me with a pillow if I suggest another game of ingredient names.