writing by candlelight

Another sixteen days have passed.  Again the hiatus was unexpected.  Sometimes circumstances just throw you off.

Growing up in the Philippines means growing up with blackouts.  Through the decades there have been many and varying causes to the occurrence, though these days they’re usually due to typhoons.  When typhoon Glenda hit the country on July 16th 2014, my block lost power at around 2am that Wednesday morning.  It had woken me up, but my consciousness failed to register what it meant.  When I really woke at 6:45am, I properly realised that there was no electricity.

My first thought was my mobile phone.  It was at 15%.  I should have charged it the night before when we’d gotten the warning that the storm would hit some time at night, but I hadn’t.  My second thought was my laptop.  It was at 32%.  Next I checked my camera, which I needed for one of my current projects. It was fully charged.

The rest of the household was also assessing their power supplies.  Almost everyone was in agreement that maintaining the charges in our mobile phones were most important.  Suggestions like driving around just so we can use the car charger and going to a cousin’s house in hopes they had power were made.  Only my mother had different priorities.  She was busy trying to remember exactly what was in the fridge and freezer without having to open the doors and calculating how long the food would last without power.

More than half the city was without power, and so I gave up hope of charging or using my laptop.  I also gave up hope of finding a stable and quick Internet connection.  Not wanting to waste days or time, however, I made a list of what tasks could be done without power, and I set out to do them by candlelight.

In the two and a half days without electricity, I wrote by hand.  And with nothing to distract me, I wrote a lot.  I also read a lot.  It had been weeks since I’d been that productive and it felt great.  So despite the runs to the coffee shop to charge my mobile phone, despite my mother wanting to make adobo out of everything in the freezer to keep things from going bad, I was kind of happy.  Life became simpler.  I woke up, ate, and worked until I was tired.  I worked until the candles burned out and more had to be lit.  I worked until we ran out of candles and had to buy more.  I worked without a real sense of time, and that lent itself to productivity.

During the short quiet breaks I took–my hand was no longer used to writing so much and so often–I thought of how people used to live by candlelight.  They used natural light when they could, and when they could not, they were forced to light candles.  It is always easy, in this modern world, to take something as marvellous as electricity for granted.  And taking things for granted makes it easy to dilly dally and take your time.  Not so when you know daylight will run out and that the candles may have better use during the night.  It was a classic example of counting and appreciating your blessings.

The power returned on Friday at noon, and while I was happy (and my mother relieved) I was also kind of disappointed.  I’d gotten used to working by candlelight, and I’d gotten used to the productivity, so much so that I kept that candles a little longer, not wanting to go back to the real world until late Friday night.


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