As the skies cleared and the sun was setting, my wife and I ventured out. We had long talks with the neighbors concerning recent events. We caught up for quite a while, the way you only do after some natural disaster when the house is temporarily out of order with the power cut. The stream through town had overflown its banks. The police station had flooded. Trees and lines were down all over the place.
We decided to take a walk and see. We joined the many. The further up the hill from our house we went, the worse the damage became. We came to appreciate just how potentially deadly this storm had been. Tall stately trees that had shaded our community for many decades were shattered. Their trunks exploded in the ferocity of the wind, scattering their heavy bodies and limbs across yards and streets. Never outside of a lumber yard have I smelled so much wood, this time splintered instead of sawn. It feels strange to be unsettled about walking beneath a tree, suddenly aware of its weight. In our travels, it seemed almost miraculous that only one tree had fallen onto a home, and that on the garage and not the main house. We did find one roof that looked to have been peeled from its house from back to front, but that was the only one in our wanderings. Another was missing some shingles, but for the most part people's homes remained intact. Another testimony to the power of the storm was the flag pole we found bent flat to the ground. It had not snapped. It had simply been bent flat at its base where it met the ground.
We talked to many people on that walk, people we had not spoken to before and people we knew well. We assured each other that we were alright and in no need of help, we commiserated about losses and clean up to come, we reminded each other of how happy we were to be alive. Police cruisers, fire engines, power trucks, and a local tree surgeon inspected the damage and made sure the neighborhood was generally secure. Power company workers rolled up their sleeves and got down to business.
As the sun set, we returned home. My wife works at the local school and it was amazing to see how many candles she had been given over the years as gifts. Our kitchen, living room, and bathroom were alight with soft candle glow. Shadows danced in their uncertain light, reminding me that for most of human history (and in many locations yet) the night has been a far darker, far spookier place all on its own.
The windows and doors were left open to catch any breeze that came by and we took to our porch ... something you don't do much in the high tech twenty-first century. There we joked with friends about going over to the next neighborhood to ask to borrow a cup of power and wondered just how long the power would be out, comparing notes on what we'd seen on our tours of the battered neighborhood.
At five minutes until ten in the evening, the hard working power crews had our lights back on. We returned home and battened down the hatches, blew out the candles, reset the electric clocks, and turned on Under the Dome, replacing unsettling reality for dark fantasy, and left the porch all to itself, waiting for our return in the next power failure.
We left the candles on the porch burning in their lanterns. Somehow it seemed right.