Outside, the winds roared. Inside, our lights flickered. The rains fell. Soon it was clear that the storm was upon us. Suddenly, the house went dark. My son and I grabbed our cellphones, using their glow to give us some modicum of visibility.
He followed me to the living room. We lifted the blinds to look outside and see Mother Nature — bending the branches of our sprawling White Birch tree in the front yard, sheets of blinding rain hurled by throaty gusts. I took comfort in our shelter, even if worries over when our power might be restored left me a little unsettled.
Luckily, I had powered up my Galaxy Note earlier and charged my iPad. My iPod — tethered to my car — is always fully juiced up. So at least we had communications and a little entertainment, with three iPods between our kids and me, to ride out the storm.
Thank goodness for technology as the Fountains were embarking on a journey back to the frontier days — back when there was no electricity, no refrigerators, no microwaves or cable TV. At least that’s how my 12-year-old son saw it, remarking later, “Now we can see what it felt like back in the pioneer days.”
The pioneering days. . . . Ah, yes, those were hard times. The days before Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, Nintendo 3DS. The days before Netflix and Candy Crush and On Demand. Those dreadful days when there was no television, no radio, no sports games or electronic gizmos. No social media or myriad other modern conveniences that were supposed to help make our lives “better.”
Those woeful days when there was not much to do, except maybe talk face to face. To actually engage in social discourse without the background buzz of a world constantly moving in fast forward motion, and a million gadgets, gizmos, and galas gnawing at our time.
Time. It is our most precious commodity. More time for one thing means less time for another.
Time. It is not endless. It dissolves like salt in water. Evaporates as quickly as the tranquility of a calm night can be broken by a violent storm.
Over time, I have known worse storms. I once found myself in the middle of a hurricane, holed up in a hotel in Mississippi. I have witnessed the devastation that storms can bring. And they have always reminded of how fragile life really is.
They remind me to take inventory. Of what’s really important. Of how I spend my time. And most important, with whom.
After the storm, we went days without power. And despite the water in our basement, the huge fallen tree in my backyard, the task of cleaning up, the skunk in the ground well, I treasure the lessons from the storm, even if it has been mostly a reminder course:
People mean more than things. Life is precious. Time is short. You can replace stuff. There is a difference between an inconvenience and a catastrophe.
Be prepared. Most of what you have, you don’t really need. Sometimes it takes a storm to appreciate life — to count your blessings.
And also these lessons: There is always someone who is worse off than you. Turn off the devices, tune into those you love.
That night of the storm, our family sat in the den, talking and laughing face to face amid flashlights, candlelight and even the glow of my son’s iPhone. We were without the usual static as the winds outside raged on. Still without power. But completely connected.