8/27/2007

darkness and light


Photo by Amber the Magnificent

The aroma of apple crisp was just beginning to fill our kitchen when the lights flickered, dimmed and went out. Anna and her two friends came running out from her room, saying "The lights are out." Then I heard Fr. John in the hall.

"Note to self," he said, "Don't try to print and run the air conditioner at the same time."

Do you really think you blew a fuse?" I asked. He ignored my question, dug a flashlight out of the utility cabinet and shone it into our fuse box.

I repeated my question as he began to flip switches.

"John, the entire neighborhood is dark," I said.

He finally looked at me and let the words sink in. We'd lost power, once again. The last time this occurred three days passed before the lights came back. As our electric company tactfully explained, "We don't service the South Side at night because it is too dangerous."

Truth be told, I've always been a little (sometimes a lot) afraid of the dark. So the fact that Con Ed considers my neighborhood too dangerous for their macho trucks did nothing for my psyche. But I remembered the verse from Job, The darkness and the light are the same to you, O Lord, and I was a little comforted. I repeated it to myself as I checked the locks, checked the girls and washed the dishes by candlelight.

I headed into the dining room to top off the lampada. As I stood there beside the icons I realized that I was not alone. I shone a flash light into the corner of the room, and there was a small figure standing there beside the window. I almost screamed, until I realized it was Anna, drinking a small bottle of holy water from Lourdes.

After I'd resettled the girls in their beds, John and I headed out back to watch the lightning. It was strangely peaceful without all those city lights glaring down on us. A cop car drive slowly through the alley, shining a search light into each yard as it passed.

Around ten, my neighbor stopped by and offered to cook us some hot dogs on their gas grill. By this time, the girls had reappeared and were hungry, so we requested a few extras. My neighbor also brought down two gallons of ice cream. I decided this was a divine sign that it was time for the apple crisp. So we ate our half-baked crisp ala mode on the back porch with the lightning as our witness. Zoe said, "This is like camping!"

Just before the girls fell asleep the lights came back on. We all hugged each other with relief. As I lay down that night in my cool dark room that verse kept coming back to me--The darkness and the light are the same to you, O Lord.

"What exactly does that mean?" I asked John.

"It means the Lord does not see with physical eyes."

"Boring," I said.

It's got to mean more that that. Perhaps it means that there is no reason for fear even when we feel most powerless, even when we can't see two feet in front of us, and we keep walking into the garbage can--even when we don't know what to do next in the the big and little things. O Heavenly King, the Comforter, The Spirit of truth, everywhere present and filling all things. Darkness, light, confusion, clarity, God is there, to see us through.

7 comments:

Ser said...

This is my favorite post yet, Jenny. Your writing is beautiful and your thoughts inspiring.

I miss you, too!

And if you read the comments on Bethany's blog, you will see that I have been one of her biggest fans. She's a pretty amazing woman.

I'll call soon.

melissa said...

This is lovely and insightful, Jenny. And made me think "chiaroscuro," which is a fun word to say.

Jenny said...

Thank you Ser and Melissa for your kind words! Melissa, tell me what "chiaroscuro" means . . .

Jen

melissa said...

I think chiaroscuro is mainly used to describe shadow and light in artwork, but literally it's the combination of the words clear or light (chiaro) and dark (scuro) in Italian. The word just popped into my head when I read your post.

Dove Knits said...

Just in time -- I needed this reminder today, Jenny. Thank you.

CPB said...

Your story reminded me a bit of Jhumpa Lahiri's "A Temporary Matter" (in Interpreter of Maladies)...only your ending is much more hopeful, which is, of course, very very good.

Julian said...

Hey, I think I remember that evening! Fortunately I could still cook, but it was amazingly boring with no computer, no lights to read with, no sewing machine to work on, nothing to do at all! I tried to kill time by taking a candlelight bubble bath, but you can only stay in the tub so long before it starts to get boring. The power just seems to go out so often here. It was even worse at Nashotah, but at least I could borrow the huge chapel altar candlesticks to do HW by.