The gravel road we live on is always dark at night, and never more so than when the moon is new and not illuminated. But as we drove down the road under the new moon, returning home from a night out, the absence of any lights whatsoever began to register a warning. Even the scattered, always-on vapor lights of the neighboring farmsteads were extinguished, and the road grew ominous.
When we pulled in the driveway, we knew the power was out.
You wouldn't think that darkness would instill quiet, but it does. Maybe it's just the absence of visual stimulation that amplifies stillness to the human ear, the way ringing in the ear is more pronounced in the still of the night. We turned off the car and stepped outside. It was as quiet as a chicken coop after dark. When chickens roost they go into a semi-comatose state, like your computer on sleep mode. You can rest your hand on their backs when they're roosting and they won't budge. That's why chickens are easy prey for predators should they be stranded without cover at night. My mother says that when she was a little girl she would sit at the kitchen window after sunset and watch the chickens fly up into a tree to roost. She vividly remembers how they would ruffle their feathers and settle on a branch for the night. After raising a flock of our own, I know where the term “chicken” (meaning afraid) comes from. They are defenseless and very timid creatures. The fox would only have to stick his nose under the door and they would all die of heart attacks.
So the chicken coop dark and quiet was the norm, but the surrounding farmland dark and quiet . . . not so much. We found our way into the house and tried a light. It came on dimly. What we had was a “brown-out,” a low-power event which is extremely dangerous for appliances. Luckily a family member from down the road had thought to pull the plugs on everything, including my laptop or I would not be speaking to you now. I would be balled up in a corner as distressed as Blanche, Stella’s disturbed sister in A Streetcar Called Desire. If you haven’t seen that classic, go quickly and rent it! We watched it via Netflix because I wanted to see the young Marlon Brando in his sweat-stained T-shirt. Oh my God! He invented that entire James Dean look—the muscled, conflicted, brooding male. The film is in black and white, which makes it even more dramatic. It is definitely character-driven and dialogue rich, a literary extravaganza for the senses. But back to our dilemma.
Why is it that when you really need a candle you can’t find one, and when you only want one for atmosphere, they’re everywhere? Desperate, we stuck a couple of stick candles in empty beer bottles, like college days. All I needed was incense and The Moody Blues. But we went to bed early like pioneers not college kids. The next morning candle wax was dripped across the countertop, evidence of our fumbling.
OK, so April is the month for violent storms and watching classics. It is also poetry month and I plan to highlight more poetry on this blog starting Friday. I just got some good news from Steam Ticket a Third Coast Review, published out of the University of Wisconsin. A piece I submitted will be published in their 13th edition which is due out in May!
One more thing. April is also the month for planting trees and kissing the earth. This is a white pine. I kissed the earth with my shovel and watched another storm blow in.