When the Lights Flicker

Life at the quieter edge

Shannon Page


Photo by Francesco Casalino on Unsplash

When the lights flicker, especially in the wintertime here on lovely, remote Orcas Island, my husband and I rush to prepare.

The power doesn’t always go out after a flicker — and sometimes there isn’t even that to warn us — but more often than not, an outage is preceded by that little stutter. I, no doubt fancifully, imagine a tree falling onto a power line, bouncing a bit; the determined little line struggles to hold it together, to take the tree’s weight or thrust it aside without breaking; but — alas! — it cannot do it, and it snaps. Then (even more fancifully), I see the severed line dribbling its last bit of power to us…and then we go dark. At least until the nice folks from our power company brave the elements to go out and stitch the lines back together again.

Fairy tales and children’s stories aside, that flicker gives us just enough time to save whatever we’re working on and unplug the computers, make sure we know where the flashlights and solar lamps are, and, if it’s getting near dinnertime, maybe pull a few things out of the fridge so we don’t have to open it when it’s off and let all the cold air out.

We do fine with outages, by the way. We heat our house with a wood stove, and we’ve even gotten little self-contained, heat-activated fans to sit atop it to circulate the warmth. Our cook stove is propane, and can be lit with a match (though sadly, we can’t use the oven with no power). We have lots of candles and oil lamps and those above-mentioned solar lamps.

Also, it’s just unspeakably cozy here, when the lights are off and the fire is crackling and we can’t work because the computers are down. I mean, yes, if the outage goes on for many many hours, or if we were scrambling on a deadline, it can be inconvenient, even frustrating; but mostly, it’s just a reminder from the universe: Slow down. Go sit in your comfy chair by the light of a candle. Watch the fire.

Spend a little time not working.

Whenever I mention our power outages to anyone, I am invariably asked, You don’t have a generator? And then am told, You should get a generator!

Why yes, we are aware that generators exist, and that they can be very useful in remote rural areas where the power often…



Shannon Page

Writer, editor, thinker of things, living on Orcas Island, Washington state. https://www.shannonpage.net