When the click and flicker that signaled the loss of power sent the house into dimness and silence, I thought about going through the rooms and turning everything off. Then I realized I wasn’t sure exactly what had been on, which lamps, which ceiling fans, which ceiling lights. All that light — all that automatic, instantly available, taken for granted light — and in less than 10 seconds I’d forgotten which of the many switches produced it.
The power came back on some 25 hours later, just after noon. I went through the house and, turning them off as I went, counted the lamps and overhead lights that were suddenly blazing again. One, two, three ... 11, 12. Had it really been that gloomy and gray as Irma’s wide arms flailed wildly outside my windows? So gloomy and gray as to require that much light to beat back the darkness?
I didn’t spend much time on the contemplation. The sun was forcing its way through the clouds, so as soon as I could get the towels that caught the leak from the ceiling up off the floor, I was outside to greet her. It didn’t matter that the rocking chairs were clogging up the guest room and the deck furniture was jammed in the shed and all those towels needed washing. All that could wait.
The first thing I noticed was that the air was thick with the smell of peanuts, a mixture of nitrogen and dirt, that strange perfume that signals the beginning of fall. I heard, in the distance, the call of geese. And, there, high in the sky, exactly where she is supposed to be, was the sun. Light. Bigger than Irma. Brighter than LED.
Sandhill is nearly 26 years old. Studying the blueprints with the builder, I pointed at every window, “Bigger.” “Longer.” “More.” He accommodated me.
For at least 15 years they were completely unadorned. No curtains. No blinds. I wanted to be able to sit anywhere, stand in any spot and see the slant of light falling in straight lines across the floor, in even curves across the back of the couch. I monitored the seasons by the angle at which the moonlight came through the window of my bedroom.
I didn’t care that it faded fabrics and wood. I didn’t care that it increased my power bill. And, honestly, I didn’t care that people thought it was odd.
Grannie came to Sandhill one day and noted, “Darling, you don’t have anything up to your windows.”
“I know, Grannie. I like it that way.”
“But, what if somebody was looking in?” Her tone of voice held both genuine curiosity and abject fear.
“Well, Grannie,” I offered in a moment of cheekiness never to be repeated, “if they come this far they deserve to see something.”
I don’t think she ever got over it. But I hope she understood that my need for light is greater than any apprehension I might have of being observed.
Though I’d never thought of it in metaphorical terms before the visitation of Irma and the waiting for EMC and the remembrance of that visit from Grannie, I’ve decided that one of the truly grand things about growing up and growing older is learning that how one may appear to others is never worth apprehension.
It is no reason to hide behind curtains, no reason to wear a mask, no reason to pretend to be anyone other than who you are. No reason to stand anywhere but in the light.