Light A Candle

Candle light
Image via Wikipedia

Do you ever wonder what life was like before we — in the more developed world at least — took electricity for granted?

Mirrors mattered, for their ability to reflect and magnify every available source of light. The crystal prisms of chandeliers amplified the glow of candles — chandelles, hence chandelier.

Candles were carefully trimmed and hoarded.

Traveling through inky darkness, whether by horse, carriage, boat or on foot, was a perilous undertaking as pirates, animals and highwaymen lay in wait. Not to mention perilous roads and conditions.

One of my favorite movie scenes ever is in Cabaret, when Sally and Brian sit on the floor in a room exclusively lit by candles.

I often start these long, cold, murky winter days by lighting candles on the shelf beside our bed. It’s a gentle way way to ease into the day, without the sudden, harsh illumination — wake up!!!! — of simply snapping on a light.

It’s also a lovely way to soothe yourself after a crazy, beeping, buzzing, over-caffeinated day. I love the snap of the match, the delicate blue moment of a wick lighting up, the surprising amount of light a cluster of candles does offer, enough to read by — preferably something written in the 18th. century!

We light candles every evening as we sit down to eat, votives whose glow softens the room.

When I visited Stockholm in late November — where the sun rose at 8:30 and was gone by 2:30 — candles were everywhere, even on the restaurant tables at lunch, creating a wholly different, (softer, gentler), mood for even the men in their suits having business lunches.

There is something centering and calming about staring into the flickering flame of a candle.

Broken Rhythms, New Routines

Series of air conditioners at UNC-CH.
WANT! Image via Wikipedia

So it’s 11:43 a.m. and, instead of sitting alone at home at my computer — always somewhat lonely in that respect — I’m sharing a library table with three men, all strangers. To my left, a guy is working from data on death rates in Baltimore. At the adjacent tables, the age ranges from 20s to 60s, everyone plugged in, a shared cocoon of air conditioning, electric light and power.


We’ve been warned it’s likely another four days before we get power back, at least. Clean-up crews are cutting down and collecting the dead trees and branches blocking many roads, so even my drives around the neighborhood are altered as some roads remain closed.

One of my neighbors — yay! — lugged my ice chest up six flights of stairs for me. I raced home to make spaghetti sauce while I still had enough light to see, then ate on the balcony as the sun set.

I normally hate cellphones and avoid them whenever possible. Now, it’s my lifeline, although in the middle of a crucial business meeting last night, the call kept getting dropped. I have a cell tower barely 15 feet above my head, right on the roof!

A cold shower last night felt good since the water was less frigidly cold than unheated and the night air fresh and soothing, not wintry and biting.

The sweetie comes home tonight from the city now that the trains are running again. I’ve already thrown out some of the food he bought, scared to eat it.

Pro: Silence. No hours wasted watching television.

Con: Would like to do laundry as we are all quite sweaty.

Pro: Have revived my morning routine of listening to an hour of BBC World News on the radio.

Con: I don’t need to hear 20 minutes on South African internal politics.

Pro: Immediate potential for weight loss thanks to loss of ice cubes for our nightly cocktails.

Con: I like ice!

Pro: Renewed sense of gratitude that, even with a severely damaged left hip, I have the strength and flexibility to climb six flights of stairs more than once a day.

Con: The pain wakes me up at 3:00 a.m. for Advil every night.

Pro: Having to get out to the library to get any work done using the Internet means dressing, putting on some make-up and perfume, all technically unnecessary working alone at home.

Con: A large poster at the library door (Wanted! Kidding) advertising my speech here about “Malled” next week means I can’t afford to show up looking like hell.

Pro: Having a sweetie who prepared us well for Hurricane Irene and suggested I take a power strip to the library today.

Con: Fighting for access to outlets with territorial 14-year-olds desperate to keep texting.