In a few hours, our lights are going out. I’m looking forward to it. Maybe that’s a perverse sort of anticipation, like chasing fire trucks or attending hangings. Light is usually associated with good, dark with bad.
Or maybe it’s sociological enquiry. How many people really will turn out their lights, or have already, as the earth turns enough to bring eight pm to their doorstep? What will be the effect on our social awareness of this experiment, the second annual Earth Hour?
Or maybe it’s the memory of that summer day, a couple of years ago, when all the lights went out. My partner and I were in Kingston Ontario, getting ready for the long drive home, and trying to order a pair of iced cappuccinos to go. We were disappointed that the machine had just stopped working. Before we could leave the shop, someone stuck their head in to tell the counter workers that the hydro trouble was all the way up the street. Fine, we shrugged, let’s get in the car.
As we made our way out of the small city, we noticed that the streetlights were out — all the way to the 401. So we turned west onto the highway, switched on the radio, and tuned in to CBC. The power was out on both sides of the Lake.
It was 10 pm by the time we rolled into our own parking space. The streets of the neighbourhood were hot, black, and full of life. People sat on their stoops, steps, and balconies, chatting, drinking, enjoying the night with the glee of children let out of school on a snow day.
Five minutes to go! Turn off computer.
Cuca and I stayed in while the rest of the family headed outside to observe Earth Hour. I turned off the hall light after them. The sky was still denim blue; I felt unsettled. I took the cordless phone off its base to quell its annoying green light. I unplugged the microwave. I nearly reached up to take the battery out of the clock — if it was going to be dark, it was bloody well going to be quiet!
But quiet it was not to be, with two planes and a chopper circling the downtown, buzzing by the window every five or ten minutes. I boiled some water and made licorice tisane. With the dog out on the spree, I had the papasan chair to myself. I curled up in it with the warm cup and no book and buzzing surveillance and some fresh unsettling family knowledge that I may write about sometime or maybe not. The meditation gods were definitely against me.
I turned on the stove light long enough to dial the number, then switched it off again. Mum was home, sitting in the dark. I settled back into the papasan, and she told me some family history so I could better understand the family present, and after a while I forgot about the droning aircraft and the ticking clock.