Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A New Perspective on Christmas Lights

It's been a fun few days here in the Pacific Northwest. A major storm blew through the entire region Dec. 14th and took down lots of trees, poles and power lines. As utility crews have struggled for the past few days to restore power (and I wish I could thank every crew member personally for their hard work and dedication!), you start noticing things that rub you the wrong way.

Like Christmas Lights.

My wife and I enjoy a particular holiday ritual around the lights people like to put on the exterior of their houses to show their holiday cheer. She wonders aloud over several days what it would take for one of us to hang up some lights. I wonder aloud about our lengthy list of ToDos-- and lately I've been finding particularly good success by bringing up Christmas gifts for the kids. My neighbor even got in the act this year by hanging lights of his own. It was a pitched battle until last Thursday when it all became moot.

As power is coming back online, so are the Christmas lights. I walk my dog every day and with each passing day more houses again have power, and more happy blinking porches and eaves are piercing December's gloom. But the electrical insouciance seems to be having the opposite effect on me.

We have a happy conceit that we are above Nature, which is fine as long as we seem to be. However, I've noticed our darkest hours are when Nature blithely intrudes on our stagecraft. While Seattle, and the entire Northwest, was socked by a storm, were conditions really so grave as to warrant fighting at gas stations or robbing houses in unlit blocks like my neighbors?

'Oh, this was like Katrina!'

As a measure of the storm's power, not at all-- the scale was completely different. While I may have a better understanding of unsettledness-- of moving from house house to keep my kids warm-- I fully expect my power to be on shortly and life to continue quite nicely after this hiccup.

As a measure of our conceit, inattentiveness and complacency, then sure, I'm up for a comparison. I've lived all my life in the Northwest and while this storm may be unusual, its very common-- even predictable. You don't have to go back very far to read well documented storms of yore with similar outcomes.

For instance, we had a 'famous' Columbus Day Storm back in 1962. As people compare this storm to that one the thing I notice is all the utility trucks repairing the damage look like they are from the 1960s themselves.

It's all about priorities. Schools versus Sports Stadiums. Transportation versus Development. Urban versus Suburban versus Exurban. 1950s and 1960s infrastructure versus the needs of the 21st century....

Oh wait, the lights are on. There's still time for me to hang some Christmas Lights this year.

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