Again! This is getting to be a bad habit. Three times in the last five months. Perhaps it is Candy’s electric personality, as she suggested Sunday. Perhaps it is just coincidence, or a run of bad luck. Or maybe there is something we are meant to learn.

Sunday, for the third time this winter, we lost electrical power. Thankfully our guests had all left for home and only Candy, Marge and Tracy were here for this adventure. The interesting thing was there was no storm which is the usual harbinger of a power outage; it was just windy. The residents were enjoying a quiet afternoon when the quiet was interrupted by a loud crash around 4:30 pm. Candy looked out the window of the residents’ TV room and saw nothing. Marge was upstairs checking the guest rooms at the time. She looked out a window in the east wing and saw the power lines from the electrical pole near the labyrinth drooping much lower than normal. As she finished her rounds and went to the Fireplace Lounge to see what she could see, the ugly reality was all too apparent – the electrical pole near the residents’ garage had snapped off. The power lines were draped across the cloister wall and lying across the Solanus Center parking lot.

The immediate realization was this was not going to be a short interruption in electrical service. The second thought was, “Thank God this did not happen Saturday” when we had 35 guests using the Solanus Center and adjacent parking lot all day, and another 20+ guests upstairs on retreat, all of whom were expecting lunch that day. Thankfully the power went out when it was still light outside so we could locate flashlights and candles in the event they would be needed, and thankfully the outside temperatures were relatively mild so there was no fear of freezing.

Meanwhile, Tracy was outside investigating. The power lines were down and lying on Fourth Street, and a large pine tree was lying across the road. Clearly, the pine tree was the culprit this time, and it snapped off the top of the power pole at the east corner of the front wall when it fell. The police had closed the road for safety, and Wisconsin Public Service showed up quickly to begin repairs. They got to work immediately but advised Tracy we needed to be patient as the repairs would take some time.

Well, we can occupy a few minutes of time in conversation, but without any modern distractions, what else do we do with our time? Marge worked on her jigsaw puzzle while daylight permitted. Tracy settled in with a book. Candy decided to go to bed early.

All too soon, darkness enveloped the Center inside and outside. With no light inside and no light filtering in windows from the outside, the halls and rooms were as dark as tombs. The occasional flashlight pierced the darkness as one or the other of us fumbled our way down the hall. It sure does make you appreciate the light and other modern electrical conveniences you take for granted.

Outside, the only light came from the half dozen or more WPS trucks in the driveway and on the road. Their work lights illuminated the areas where crews worked to replace broken poles and restring downed power lines. The residents were all sound asleep by the time the work crews finished and power finally came back on at 12:30 am.

If the power outages are not the result of Candy’s electric personality, or coincidence, or just bad luck, then what lessons do we need to learn? Perhaps one lesson is how to entertain ourselves without modern distractions like televisions and computers. Another may be to appreciate all the gifts electricity provides and not take them for granted, like microwave ovens, electric ranges, refrigerators and electric lights. The most important lesson may be how to best care for the trees in our woods so they stay healthy and strong.

For the darkness which helps us appreciate the light, and for the lessons life’s interruptions have to teach us, we say Deo Gratias!