Time warp . . . to Thanksgiving 1977. We had only two little boys at the time. Scott was three and Jeff was four months old.
If the term "going dark" even existed in the seventies, it was only in the business realm--referring to a company closing up shop. Or maybe in the world of espionage.
Back then, we didn’t have internet, email, cell phones or social media. Yet there were plenty of distractions. We wanted to see if we could handle, and enjoy, a taste of a simpler life--without modern conveniences and the word "hurry."
So for four days, we covered the clocks, turned off the heat, and didn’t use electricity. (We did, however, take advantage of modern plumbing.) We heated with, and cooked on, the wood stove in our basement.
One night, friends came over with an acoustic guitar. We sat by the fire and listened and let the busy world outside slip away.
On Thanksgiving Day, we walked the half mile to my mother’s house with the baby in an old-fashioned buggy. On our way home, it started to snow. Huge flakes falling straight down muffled the sound of footsteps and laughter.
There was something holy in that night. The experience made us more thankful for what we had, but also made us long for a slower, less complicated life.
A few years ago I was in Door County, Wisconsin on a research trip for A Door County Christmas with writer friends Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, and Cynthia Ruchti. One night, we sat beside a gas fireplace in a suite at the Eagle Harbor Inn in Ephraim. We laughed and talked over each other as we plotted and brainstormed, each one of us typing away on a laptop. And then, without warning, the lights went out.
The manager came to the door and explained that the power had gone out in the whole town. He gave us each a glow stick.
We shut off our computers to save battery power and curled up in our wing-back chairs by the fireplace. We lifted out neon green sticks and sang “This Little Light of Mine.”
Conversation hushed and slowed. Before long, we veered from talk of writing and started sharing the things on our hearts. Not long after that, we began to pray.
With electricity fueling ideas, would we have ever gotten to that point? I wonder.
What would this holiday season look like for each of us if we even took an hour a day to “go dark”? A time to turn off the electronics, silence the noise in our heads, set aside the to-do lists, and just be still. Is it possible we’d be drawn back to the thankfulness of Thanksgiving . . . the joy of Christ’s birth? Would we find ourselves calm instead of frazzled and impatient?
Sometime before Christmas I'm claiming a whole day to "go dark." This time, I'll probably leave the lights on and cook on the electric stove, but I want a screen-free 24-hours. No texting, email, checking Facebook, listening to the radio in the car, watching TV, or even writing.(My heart rate about doubled at the thought—a sure sign of addiction.)
What will I do in that screen-free day? Maybe I'll linger over tea and watch the sun rise . . . and set. Maybe I'll snuggle under a down quilt and read a cozy Christmas novella, or go for a walk and wish I had, like the Alaskan Inuits, more than 50 words for snow. I might have a sit-down conversation across the kitchen table with my husband--without the backdrop of Fox News--or, like I did this past weekend, go sledding in the front yard with one of the grandkids. I could just sit in front of the fire and look at the stockings waiting to be filled and thank God for the family he's blessed us with.
I need this quiet, reconnecting time.
Care to join me?