A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

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The house was in full flow! 

In my study I was busy answering emails, next door my son was again multi-tasking – this time playing on his XBox, talking to a friend via the game as well as talking to another friend on Skype and relaying the conversation. The mind boggles! Downstairs hubby took a few moments for himself, catching up on the football. A normal modern evening.

Ablaze with light our house was a beacon of busyness. Then CLICK!

Darkness. Utter and total darkness, the darkness of our fears, the darkness of our fore-fathers, the darkness of old. 

Silence. I’d forgotten how the two went hand in hand as the total shocked silence fell on us all. As one I imagined us staring, or rather not staring, at our black blank and silent screens.

I reached for my phone and its torch app when another click heralded light. I sighed with disappointment as the bright glare once again invaded our home. The manic whirring of the external drive irritatingly loud.

CLICK!

We were plunged into darkness. Again! My heart leapt for joy and I took a moment to savour the peace and quiet. Downstairs I heard the mutter of ‘where’s the torch?’ followed by the crashing of objects in the cupboards. Of course I knew exactly where the torch was but this moment was too precious to rush. 

With further mutterings of ‘I’ve found it’, I headed to my son’s room, led by the thin ray of my phone light. Unmoved he sat on his bed, a bemused expression on his face, lit by the bleak light of his phone, a light attempting but failing to penetrate the blackness.

I went to find another torch, one of those Science Museum ones and by pumping the bar a stronger beam shines the way.

In hushed tones we started to become organised. With candles in nearly every room anyway (I’m Swedish – enough said) I started to light the ones upstairs. Downstairs there was the habitual mumblings of ‘where are the matches?’. I know they’ll be discovered soon enough and remain quiet.

The house started to glow. It was if the crazy pace of the evening had hit a brick wall and now the real us was allowed to step forth and take its place. The spiritual peace weaved itself around the rooms, a mystical gossamer veil descended upon us.

I placed three candles in my son’s room. Two large church-style candles were lit in the bathroom standing on the windowsill altar.

Soon we gathered in the living room, the soft gentle candle light casting its own original display of shadows. For a while this was just perfect. We sat and watched the flickering candles, the flowing hues of darkness interrupted by the wisps of light. This was just enough. There was a spiritual silence and almost reverentially we fell upon it, absorbed it into our being. Gradually conversation ensued; quiet and calm with our minds stilled by the ethereal aura.

Even though the house was warm we switched on the fire and I slid onto the floor like the child that lives within me and beside me my son stretched full out on the carpet. This was good. Doing nothing together.

After all, those emails could wait until tomorrow. My son texted his friends of the events and said he’d see them in school and as for the football, well, that could wait.

For that evening nothing seemed more vital and fulfilling than being. Being together without distractions, our faces lit by the warmth of candles, the soft-focus of life returning.

I blessed the blackout – I just hoped it didn’t last too long!

‘Silence is sometimes the best answer.’

Dalai Lama

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58 thoughts on “A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

  1. maryannniemczura says:

    The sweet sound of silence. Daily when I returned from a building of 2200 noisy teens 16-18 (I was a teacher), bells, loud shouts, etc., I relished my peace and quiet. We have had odd 30 second power outages at home so I laughed when I read your description. We tolerate too much “white noise” in our lives and don’t realize how loud and distracting it can be. Return to earlier, quieter times when conversation took place between household members! Isn’t it nice to turn off all technology to engage in a family board game like Scrabble? We seem to be happier and appreciate one another more. My cell phone is off most of the time except upon rare occasion when I must place a call or receive one. I am proud to say that and don’t miss the fact that it is off. I can neither text nor receive messages. I can feel my body relax in the peace and quiet of home. Quiet by choice.

    • Annika Perry says:

      I feel peaceful and serene reading your comment, very soothing. It’s not many people who have their mobile phone on off – I admire you for that. Personally I only turn it to ‘silent’ at night but it’s always on – just in case. However we don’t have any devices at dinner etc and after starting wordpress I was going mad with all the email alerts so that sound is also turned off. Oh we do like our board games, Uno is a favourite but must admit it’s anything but quiet! My son and I are particularly competitive and don’t get me onto Scrabble – there are intense discussions over which words are allowed. Great fun family time thought! Thank you for your comment. 😀 I’m still feeling calm…

      • maryannniemczura says:

        Thank you for your very thoughtful comments to me. The workers are installing new siding on our house. It is anything but quiet, but I will leave for an appointment and to keep my sanity. I will have to re-learn how to block out sounds again. We will have major Scrabble games. Our son and daughter now win most of the time. We use dictionaries though to learn new words. So, if it’s in the dictionary, we allow it. I agree about great family fun. I couldn’t ever live with my phone on 24/7. It is not my choice. I laughed when you wrote that you turned off the sound of email alerts. I used to be able to silence the microwave too. Not with the new one which is annoying. Happy writing to you.

        • Annika Perry says:

          Glad you’re managing to escape the clatter of the workers! For some reason there is nothing like having workers in the house to drive me to distraction – here it is not just the noise but also non-stop cups of tea. Once I ran out of tea, a new 50 teabag box. I then went on strike! I think many are now using their mobiles like land line phones and I give this number now instead of landline to people, hence having it on all the time. (Oh and I’m a bit of a gadget geek!) It’s lovely writing to you too. Hope those doors are soon fitted and your peace and quiet is restored!

          • maryannniemczura says:

            By mid-December they should be done. Then our house will appear brand new. I am a coffee drinker these days. Very rarely tea. I used to love Hagebuttentee in Germany. Rose hip tea. Many in the US use cell phones instead of land lines. We kept our land line and have an answering machine. I purchased an Android (Samsung S5) last year before I went to Germany. It didn’t work there since most places had no wi-fi. What a waste. I did a few photos and videos with it and now turn it on sometimes in my vehicle with the Bluetooth if I expect a call or need to phone someone. I love technology but pick and choose what I use. Happy blogging to you!

            • Annika Perry says:

              Rose hip tea eh? When young in Sweden I used to eat rose hip soup so imagine that might be a bit similar but the soup was quite thick. Personally I like the herbal teas, my current favourite a Ginger and Lemon – seems to keep me awake. Although I love the smell of coffee I don’t like the taste; it’s huge in Sweden so when visiting relatives and I bring out my little teabag from my handbag they look upon me as an alien species! Good luck with the work and great all will be finished before Christmas.

              • maryannniemczura says:

                Thanks for the reply. Never heard of rose hip soup. Sounds delicious. Is it a cold soup? We have rose hips growing in our garden, but I don’t know about harvesting them. My daughter enjoys tea and the ginger and lemon sounds tasty. I get my day started with espresso and drink it black. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and a holiday for us so we will go out to a restaurant for dinner. We had a little snow this week but not it’s sunny and cold here. Do you get much snow in Trosa?

                • Annika Perry says:

                  I asked my mother and she said the rose hips were harvested fresh from bushes. The whole family used to go out and do it. They then were dried in the oven and could be stored for the winter too. Afterwards they boiled the dried rosehips….when finished ( with some cream in ) it was sieved to get rid if seeds. Fantastic source iv vitamin C. This is probably more information than you wanted! Although I’m Swedish I moved to the UK when young. Not much snow here at the moment though a dusting up North. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family for tomorrow! 😀

                • maryannniemczura says:

                  I love the information you sent. I just wonder when is the best time to harvest them. in the Fall after the blossoms are gone? Dried in a low heat oven I assume. Any length of time to boil them? Did you eat this soup with cream HOT or COLD? Or both? I think we have two bushes. Thanks for the wishes for Thanksgiving. We have the entire family home which is the best present possible. Family and love! My regards to you.

                • Annika Perry says:

                  Hi Mary, we could take this discussion further off-line but I do have here the recipe of rosehip soup as I think you will find that interesting and hopefully will answer your questions.

                  Recipe.

                  4 people

                  4 dl. dried and crushed rosehip
                  1 1/2. l Water
                  1 dl. sugar
                  1-2. tbsp Corn flour.

                  Boil the Rosehip in water until soft. Drain them until you have approach. 1 1/4 l.
                  Add sugar if needed.
                  Mix Cornflour with a few. tbsp. water and pour into soup.
                  Let it boil up again whilst stirring.
                  Lemon juice could be added.

                  The soup can be served cold or warm with daubs of whipping cream in.

                  Harvesting is when the rosehip is fully ripe.

                • maryannniemczura says:

                  Thanks for this lovely recipe. What is “dl” for dried and crushed rosehips? Do you have an address to take the conversation off-line? It’s a lovely sunny November day here so I just came from a walk at our lake park.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This reminded me of being a child for some reason, when we all used to crowd into the living room in the winter as it was the only room with a fire. No central heating in those days!. I think it’s just that closeness of family when you settle down in the candlelight and talk. Lovely. I think we’ll have more opportunity to do that in the UK this winter – especially if it’s a harsh one. Stock up the candles!

    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      I’m glad this brought back lovely childhood memories for you Mike. I am such a softy that I couldn’t imagine living longterm without central heating in winter! Thanks for the reminder, I need to stock up on candles for daily use anyway – and for those power cuts!

  3. Eve Messenger says:

    Nicely written. I also appreciate (especially if it’s brief, as you said) the enchantment and mini-adventure of a power outage, how silent the entire street becomes. Here’s another interesting thing about when the electricity goes out. I’ve lived on my street for 17 years and am still surprised by all the new faces I see during a power outage, as in bewildered neighbors filtering out of their homes to reassure themselves they haven’t forgotten to pay their electric bill or something. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Eve, your comment has me laughing as I can just imagine these lost souls, wandering around with a bemused confused expression of ‘what’s happening?’ At least you get to see the neighbours and perhaps next time you can meet up in the warmest house and have a party, surrounded by candle light of course!

  4. Baydreamer says:

    Beautiful post and message, Annika! We light candles often anyway and love the ambiance. Doing nothing together, just being, is something to cherish and to not take for granted. Technology can wait (as I sit at my computer :)). Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much for your warm comment Lauren. The irony isn’t lost on me either, revelling in the peace of being electronically cut off but then enjoying the contact here, via the Internet and said tecnolgoy with everyone. Just a matter of balance I guess. Candles bring their own harmony to a home and like you we have lots during the dark winter months. I mentioned this to a guy in a shop the other week and he looked absolutely confused. Candles? Why do you want that? I said it was cosy, trying to keep things simple. Cosy?! He spluttered as if the word and the concept were totally alien to him. I gave up there, I was not going to make a convert of him! Wishing you a lovely peaceful weekend too. 😀

  5. Marion says:

    Great Annika. I loved reading your post. I could see it all in front of me like a film. So serene, so heavenly! Power cuts happen so seldom in Sweden. For a moment I wished for a power cut. A short one though! Kram

    • Annika Perry says:

      Hej Marion, I liked that about seeing it like a film, a few moment of black screen before the tiny candle flames though. It was heavenly and although I know power cuts happen seldom in Sweden we did have one there a couple of years ago – the house fuses blew! – but then it felt almost primeval, nestled in the forest. Spooky. Lovely to hear from you. Kram

  6. JC says:

    Isn’t it something, we have all this technology to bring us together, but the opposite happens. Then the lights go out and we come together. Give me the candles any day.

    • Annika Perry says:

      JC, Life’s a bit like that I find, it goes full circle. Sometimes we need a nudge to remind ourselves what is truly important and to pause for a moment in life,. As I wrote I’m mad on candles anyway for breakfasts, dinners and parties, very cosy and atmospheric.

  7. D. Wallace Peach says:

    What a great post, Annika. Amazing how the mood changes when all the technology turns off. My hubby and I watched a news clip about the “imminent” cyber attack that is going to plunge us all into pre-technological history for 2 weeks to a month. I know that for many this would be a dangerous situation, but here in our little cabin, it sounds like fun (and good material for a book).

    • Annika Perry says:

      Ah, thank you so much Diana, I’m so glad you liked it. 😀 I have heard vague rumours about cyber attacks but nothing definite. For me it would be like our long summers in Sweden, disconnected from the electronic world and very peaceful for that reason. However I do so much online, especially banking that the thought of all that going array does worry me. Great book material as you say though. There was a film on this premise, Die Hard 4 maybe and it was truly frightening how easy and dangerous the film made it seem possible.

  8. restlessjo says:

    These days they’re a rare event, aren’t they? I usually find that by the time I’ve got the candles gently flickering the lights are back on and the moment has gone 😦 I thought this was going to be a Paris tribute when I saw your opening. Glad it was a few simple moments of peace with your loved ones. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Unfortunately power cuts are not so rare for us in winter, every year having a good few, some lasting many hours. It’s usually as a result of storm damage on the lines I think but not sure. Still we had a magical time so I’m not complaining! 😀

  9. Mirja says:

    I love your posting. It is both deep, almost spiritual and full of humour.
    From a house in ‘full flow’ with all gadgets working overtime and suddenly
    plunged into darkness.
    You say: ” Darkness. Utter and total darkness, the darkness of our fears, the darkness of our fore-fathers, the darkness of old. ”
    It makes a great quote, will save it and also, it is so true.

    Good thing you are so organised and that your tradition includes candles in everyday life.
    Soon the house is lit with softness and you can all feel and find joy from just being together.

  10. Sunshine Jansen says:

    Great piece. One of my favorite things in the world is the sound — part groan, part sigh — of all the fans in all the electronic devices in the house simultaneously giving up their ghosts. Not so wonderful is the anxiety after the blackout’s gone on several hours that all the food in the fridge is going to spoil… But I still call it a blessing!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much and great that you enjoyed the post. 😀 I like your phrase of ‘groan’ as everything stops working, how apt. It’s often followed by a few house alarms going berserk, which of course everyone ignores! It really did feel like a blessing that evening, quite magical. I think the shine would have dulled if all the food in the freezer had defrosted and been lost though! Or maybe not…

  11. jorobinson176 says:

    We have them often, although not often for more than two hours. It’s nice sometimes to only have the option of being in natural non-light and peaceful silence. Up in Zimbabwe though it was off for 12 to 16 hours every night & into the days for a good few years. That wasn’t so nice at all. Glad you enjoyed your peaceful time. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jo, when it is a rare occurrence such as this for a short time it is indeed a respite from the busy world; very peaceful. 😀 For longer periods always a bigger problem all round though. Why do you get regular black outs in South Africa? Not storm damage I guess?

      • jorobinson176 says:

        It is. 🙂 We have load-shedding – where they switch off because the demand is too high for the old and too small power grid. Hopefully not too many for the summer months when people haven’t all got their heaters on. 🙂

        • Annika Perry says:

          I’ve never heard of that phrase before – load-shedding. I can see that becoming a word more common here as they are going to take ten power stations out of commission in the next ten years but as yet have no plan to replace them. Honestly, can’t the people in power do the maths!! Hope there aren’t too many power cuts for you – I can see that become annoying rather meditative.

  12. Peter R says:

    A “lights out” evening sounds like a good idea. I just worry that I’m too “wired” to be able to cope with it. No, I don’t want the power company to force it on me; without electricity we’re also without heating. Maybe a “lights out” hour to begin with.

    • Annika Perry says:

      It was a good evening Pete as you can tell and I’m sure you’d be fine with one too. Of course you don’t want it to last too long as everything is driven by electricity like the heating and freezer etc. The way the power stations are struggling to cope with demand here in the UK already they might well ration our usage, so you’ll get your hour a day of ‘lights off’!

  13. Julie Holmes, author says:

    So true, that sudden silence once the power goes out. Reading your post makes me think having a “lights out” evening might be good for the soul. There’s something about warm candlelight and just the lack of electronic distractions (or maybe I’m just thinking about a long-overdue bubble bath 😉 )

    • Annika Perry says:

      How about both Julie? Lights out evening and a bubble bath! Just know where the candles and matches are! It felt so peaceful and soothing. Not until the lights came on briefly again did I realise how glaring they and the screen was. The silence was almost audible, as if the whole house and neighbourhood held its breath in surprise.

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