I’m back from Mammoth Caves, and what a great trip it was. I spent 3 days in the woods and came out with zero bug bites. The park has a huge bat population which acts as the best anti-mosquito control you could ask for.
Some strange events this week have got me thinking about shelter, and what it means to live in civilization.
“Getting away from it all” is quite the First-World romantic ideal. We leave our safe, comfortable homes and go out into nature to live without amenities, and we call it recreation. It’s a luxury we’re lucky to indulge in. For me, the magic of camping’s those small, haunting moments where you see something so unlike anything in your day-to-day experience that it seems to have fallen out of your imagination.
Like this: while hiking through the woods a couple days ago, in the fading light of dusk, I came across an old graveyard filled with fireflies. Y’know, just like in this story I wrote a few weeks ago. We get fireflies around our home in Athens, but not in such huge numbers. It’s the chaos of nature, its unpredictability, that makes it so stark and lovely to encounter this way.
Of course, nature’s chaos has its downsides too.
Yesterday, we made the long 7-hour drive back home and settled in to enjoy having internet and A/C again. I didn’t think I’d miss much while cut off from the Web, but I found my inbox overflowing with awesomeness. A couple of critiques returned by the wonderful folks in my writer’s group on one of my bigger projects. Tons of comments and likes from you, my dear readers.
I was surprised because “Shelter” is such a quiet little story (take a look – it’s just 100 words). When I was a child, my dad would often say that he didn’t mind spiders around the house or outside because they were such beneficial creatures. Like the bats at Mammoth Cave, they keep down the population of less beneficial bugs. But most of us don’t really like encountering spiders. “Shelter” was a thought experiment in how a woman might coexist and even befriend a creature that would normally be squashed out of hand. Nature intruding in one’s home, and then that same piece of nature working to weatherproof the roof. “In the shelter of each other, the people live.”
So I was feeling pretty warm and dandy as I relaxed at home yesterday. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude toward the experiences Jason and I had in nature, and touched to be remembered by my friends, family, and internet communities while I was gone. Outside our windows, a rainstorm had started up, and I felt snug as Wanda and her spider friend listening to the rain drumming against the roof as we sat snug inside.
And then lightning hit our house.
This is hard to describe. It happened so fast, and it’s like nothing I’ve experienced in my life. It sounded like a sudden explosion all around us, followed by a high-pitched ringing that first I thought was my ears, then thought was the fire alarm, and then later discovered it was the sound of certain important electronics giving their last death rattle.
Jason and I just stared at each other for a long moment, completely unsure of what to do. Then we ran around to all the windows to make sure nothing was on fire. The storm was right on top of us, so we were too scared to set foot outside unless we had to. Oddly enough, the power stayed on and none of the circuit breakers tripped.
Finally we sat back down in the living room and decided everything was okay. I’d been in the middle of answering an email, so I was the first to notice that the internet was down. Okay, no biggie. It took us another 10 minutes of troubleshooting to realize the modem was fried.
One quick Walmart trip later (quick but grueling; remember we’d already driven 7 hours that day), we got the internet working. It was only later in the evening that we realized the A/C had gone out too.
At that point we had a good laugh. How ironic is it that, wanting to “get away from it all”, we gave up internet and A/C, only to come home and realize we were still camping?
We went into the woods, but we didn’t come back out.
At the time of this writing, we’ve had the repair guy out and are in the nebulous “waiting for parts” stage. And it could be a few days before we’re back to pre-lightning status at the Jones house.
You know what? That’s fine with me. I still feel so grateful. Grateful that thanks to the ridiculous amounts of rain this summer, Georgia’s not as scorching as it usually is right about now. Grateful again for the warmth and support of my family and friends — and you, dear readers, spread across the globe, who remind me that the shelter we live in is larger than this old townhouse.
Let’s live in the shelter of each other.