The year without a winter has also become the year without a Halloween. As the first surge of Sandy made herself felt, we were among the 5 million households in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut without power. To put things in a little context, I have training in wilderness camping, having learned to survive outside with little more than a ball of twine and a pocket knife. Still, when Sandy knocked out our lights, heat, and most importantly, Internet, for three days I found myself in a new kind of wilderness. Each night, buried under blankets, in one room lit with candles (incidentally, candles that we made ourselves nearly a decade ago on a candlemaker spree in Wisconsin), we sat around a card table and played games, read, or just pondered the imponderable. I actually took to working on a blanket I’ve been making, but had set aside for a few years. If it weren’t for wondering if I had to go to work the next day until evening every night, I might have actually enjoyed it.
And the experience has made me a little leery of what I’ve become. Less than hour after the power came back on, everyone in the family was on the Internet. I confess to feeling that missing my blog was among the most disjointing aspects of the power outage. With no way to charge my laptop’s battery, and no router to connect me to cyberspace, I jealously conserved my iPhone power to get the text message that told me if the office was open the next day and if New Jersey Transit was running so that I could get there. My dreams all week were nightmares. Mostly about missing work. Another perspective: my grandfather was born on a farm. He built his own house and raised five kids while traipsing from New York to Montana and Virginia before settling in western Pennsylvania. He didn’t go to college but he kept his family well. He never lived to see a computer or an email.
So 2012 is the year without a Halloween. The lights came on on All Saints. To me those saints are the men and women of PSE&G who finally got our power back on. I’m sure they’ll understand the darker tones my thoughts took about the company as I trimmed wicks and recharged candle holders for the third night in a row when darkness fell on All Hallows Eve. Here I am, feeling decidedly wimpy and not a little disingenuous, posting on Sects and Violence in the Ancient World once again. I managed to update my blog while on the road in England, and from hotel rooms across the country as I’ve traveled for work. I can’t help but think how this reflects on my atrophied survivor skills. Maybe I’m beginning to feel what idol worshippers experience when they neglect their gods. I wonder if there will be nightmares tonight or work tomorrow.