Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Darkness and the Light

On Friday, the Ottawa-Gatineau region was hit by a tornado. This storm knocked out power to a huge swathe of the city (including where I live) for over 24 hours in some places. When the power was out, I originally sat in the dark with nothing but a candle and my dying laptop for light wanting to conserve my phone's battery life. Becoming chilled and hungering for actual warm food, I ventured forth to examine how severe the power outage was.

The lights were out all over the place. Journeying up my now unfamiliar street in the dark, I discovered that the buildings, the street lights, traffic lights, and it seemed even emergency lights in most buildings had been knocked out. Cars were navigating dangerously using only their drivers' judgement and flashing headlights and honked horns. The fact that many drivers judgement was rather poor was borne out by the constant sound of sirens in the background and a few emergency vehicles passing me on the street.

People, unused to such a consuming darkness, were using their cellphones to light the streets in front of them. The ground was so dark (or shadowed by passing cars and obstructing buildings) that they couldn't see where their feet were going! The moonlight was occasionally enough to see by, when the traffic died down at least.

What was astounding though, was that the stars shone brightly through the departing clouds and the full moon was out for all to see! Stars normally washed out by the light pollution of the city sparkled, and the moon was gloriously full. It cast a waning light, often cut by the highbeams of cars but looking lovely nontheless.

I was struck by how beautiful it looked, the dark city and the bright moon. It was something interesting in contrast, shadows and light. I don't think I'll forget just how much it exposed our reliance on our artificial stars to light the night and how it exposed most of us to a darkness we aren;t used to dealing with.

For me though, it showed just how beautiful even that darkness can be.

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