Jeff Smith 8 a.m., Sept. 18
- Community Blog
Dark Is the Night
Dark is the night. Power is severed. The darkness draws out the mischief makers, and the desire to commiserate with thy neighbor. If I had an airplane I would take flight on this night, this night that relies on candlelight, on fire, on nerve. Tonight, millions of people exist without their nightly companions; the networks, the internet, the radio, the light. Millions of people attempt a new kind of night, one that is deep and dark and begs the questions, what do I do now? Am I safe? Am I alone? How long will this last?
I feel completely at peace. I’m a smoker- I have many lighters- I’m a dreamer, I know how to go deep in the dark; to play my guitar, to sing my song, to light the fire and write my soul onto the page. If I had a plane, I would dance in the sky this night, and revel in the black Earth below, to see Earth in her natural state. Nothing changed for the Ocean today. Nothing changed for the moon, the sky.
Today all righteous survivalists are right. They’re so right- they’ve got their air tight RV’s, they’re watching CNN, in air conditioning. They’re prepared for the disaster- their security lights work. And then, there are The Rich, stuck behind their iron gates, that won’t open because they are powered by electricity, their vehicles are stuck, and they can’t get out unless they’ve prepared for this.
I am as prepared as I will ever be. A glass of vodka and lime tonic, two candles, a pen, a paper, a full moon and an ocean view. I can feel the extra energy out there tonight.
Instead of lying in bed and watching Nancy Grace or Two and a half Men- they are out- to look at the sea- to make a fire, to drink. They’re walking the dogs and the dogs are barking because they know something is different. It’s beautiful, The Night. The night our eyes had to adjust. The night we had to find a way to spend our time- out of the box- relieved of the bondage of routine. I hear them laughing outside. I smell their fires. My mother called. My water is still on. I filled three tiny glass cups of water to last me the night. I got my shower- the sweat and dirt from the stables washed away, and I’m clean, and I’m present.
I think I wanted to drink vodka tonight to celebrate this moment of anarchy- this unexpected diversion from our day to day lives- nearly on the anniversary of the World Trade Center towers falling. And that black day- ten years ago. The same fear, the same searching for ego- for rightness- righteousness. I hear the dogs again, they are afraid and they should be. On a night like tonight, liberties are taken. Limits are pushed; personally, spiritually, criminally. The problem is the natural beauty of the night sky and moon and stars is compelling. It reaches into our most primitive instinctive desires and fears.
I hear firecrackers. Where I live- this is a village of rebels- outsiders- anarchists, non-conformists, law breakers. They are the epitome of conformity in their effort to stand apart. And I love them. I love their fires, their rebellious nature. It is what drew me here, and on a night like tonight- our power is taken, and is also, somehow, given back.
Something happens- recognition of our dependency, our vulnerability, and our pompous asses. Suddenly we are propelled into a state prehistoric to us. I think of the 1800’s and I hear crickets more than usual, voices more than usual, because people have come together to feel safe.
I am empathic. For me, Mariska Hargitay and Dan Florek are my family. My sweet, dear Law and Order- I cannot be with you tonight for some reason unknown to me. They said the connection was severed. Like they would tell us if it was something more threatening… I don’t believe the general public would be told if this blackout was an attempt to crumble our infrastructure by those who wish to see America fall.
So, my artificial emotions that I feel vicariously through the stories and actors I watch at night- they are gone. My husband is gone, and though it would be dramatic to say he left me, he did not. He did physically move out of this place, but I am not some poor woman left by a man, and on a night like tonight, where nearly all of Southern California is without electricity- imagine that- millions of people suddenly thrown into the Dark Ages- on a night like tonight, you think you need a man.
I just heard the young Chicano gangster call. The distinctive high pitched whistle: chirp, chirp, chirp, in stark staccato, and then, chiiiiiirup, chirp, descending, then ascending. It makes me smile because I know that sound. I know it well. I wonder what they think when they see me. I have lived here for almost a year. I haven’t made any new friends, I don’t know my neighbors. I sit at my desk (I’m amazed I have a desk), but I sit here in the window. The two-sided picture window- I sat here this morning from four to five. I wrote. I listened to Ravi Shankaar on Pandora, which is obviously not an option now. I sit in this spot every morning and I write. Sometimes I forget, but very rarely- only if I’ve had some social disruption of some kind where I went with friends and got drunk and then told myself I’d do it later. Not lately. I’m resting in writing my pages now; I am truly resting in them. And I am at peace this night.
I know that San Diego Gas and Electric is not my source. I know that a sudden change in the facts of life has no bearing on my inner landscape. But, I will say this: instead of snuggling up with my pillow between my knees, listening to the complaining voice in my head telling me how tired I am, and so I deserve to have “down time”- I know that this night, this Dark Night, gave me space to write this. It took away the seductive Siren call of The World, and it led me here, to write, by candlelight- as the last train blows for the night, passing by, and extra slow, so as not to cause an accident. Heaven forbid we have an accident.
This is bitchen. The moonlight is exquisite, making Oceanside look like Santorini for a moment… and then, just like that, in my moment of utter delight in candle and moonlight- the electricity comes back on- the community howls and cheers for the return of modern convenience, Law and Order, here I come, beauty undone. It makes me want to cry to hear them all delight in the moment. Then in the next breath, I hear my neighbor below begin to complain that all is not yet exactly perfect the way it was. But the security lights are on again, motion detectors- I should plug in my cell phone. ATM’s, gas stations, all live again. Hallelujah- Football, Dr. Drew, internet porn… normalcy is restored.
I am tempted to stay in the dark, but that truly is not our calling, is it. We are meant to have this capacity for power, for choice, for all conceivable depths of consumption, to eat, become fat, to consume more than necessary. It is our destiny to have this choice- the will power of Man, to ignite millions of homes in a moment, in one fell swoop. In that experience we will awaken.
I believe we will awaken to true beauty, to true being-ness. True being-ness means something different to us all. We are gifted with the ability to have and know all. So, we grow, learn, and observe our respective reactions. I can hear the authorities breathe a collective sigh of relief- they do not have to enforce marshal law on us tonight. The television will do that for them. I can already hear it coming from my neighbors’ house, the comforting drawl of the news caster, explaining, hyping, and reassuring us in our human drama, that the whales, dolphins and minnows know nothing of.
Novas’ crystal hangs directly above my writing desk. She made it for me with her own two hands. It was a wedding gift. Yes, I have a friend named Nova, and yes, I was married once, married to an imagination of myself that had nothing to do with who I am. I was drinking the cool aid; popular culture blinded and bound me. I tried to wear something that did not fit me. And here I stand on the edge of what feels like a great precipice. Tonight’s events only served to challenge these un-charted waters further. Who am I without Electricity- without a husband, a mother, a father, my sisters, my friends?
I am Phoenix. I am a soul that chose to take form in ’78. I came in, kicked in the door, and have been having my ass handed to me ever since. Ah, but that’s just a fleeting feeling. Or is it? I am new today, as new as the day I was born. I have as much possibility, vulnerability, and ability as I did that dark morning, March 3rd 1978. Today is September 9th two thousand eleven. I have already lived and died many times during this lifetime. I am man, I am woman, I am plant, I am animal, I am ethereal, and I am awake, asleep, adorned, plain… I am a great many things with or without mankind’s artificial light: electricity.
Once in the 1st grade a boy named Kevin threw a candy wrapper on the ground, right in front of me. I said, “Hey, that’s littering, you shouldn’t do that.” He said, “It was made from the Earth, it’ll return to the Earth.” He was right, and I knew it. We were just kids, but I couldn’t argue with that, it was completely true. Knowing that, it becomes a choice, whether we want trash on the ground or not, whether we want excess of all things all the time, or not. So, perhaps electricity isn’t “artificial” light. It is an interpretation of light in the imagination of mankind. It is divine.
Still, somehow there is an undeniable pull on me to be still and quiet in the dark, in the night, with all the uncertainty that brings; with the creativity it almost forces from me. It’s so easy to occupy myself with what is easy- the funny thing is, this- writing this- feels utterly easy. It would not have felt easy a month ago. A month ago I would have been a complete wreck to have my oven, refrigerator, television, internet, cash machines, and gasoline, all taken away- without knowing how long the deprivation would last. Tonight it’s all easy. I am in love, hopelessly in love with this night, with all that touches me, and everything touches me. And I touch everything.