May 15, 2007

Edison’s Medicine

After sundown, the silence is dense and heavy. The weight of the star filled sky comes down on the cabin like a lead shroud, and the daytime sounds of lizards, frantic tow-truck bugs and overhead hawks fade away, leaving nothing but the vague hints of distant animals. On moonless nights the silence is accompanied by an impenetrable darkness. Huddled around the campfire in our front yard we see nothing.

Click.

“Then pull this forward… and yank…”

Gruuuunk!

Chug…

Chug…

Chug…

“Then just slide the choke back to here..”

ere…ere…ere…ere….REEEEEEEEEEER!

As the generator steadied into a consistent roar, Edison‘s medicine surged through fifty feet of cable and the ten year old halogen lights in the shop fluttered to brilliance, eclipsing the stars and luring every moth in twenty miles to our doors.

We spent a long time living in a tent with solar charged batteries providing our light though small LED headlamps, and standing there in front of the cabin, bathed in the bleach white glow of the lamp I was struck by how far we had come. The campfire, only fifteen feet away seemed ancient and the shattered silence, obnoxious in its volume, spoke of futures of civilization, of finished walls and conveniences.

We barbequed burgers on a cheap grill as I sautéed mushrooms on our faithful campstove. We chased the burgers down with beer, joking about how we no longer needed to go to town for cold beer and hot burgers.

“How far have we surpassed car camping?” I laughed, looking sideways at our bags sitting in the middle of the shop, bags that less than a year ago had carried our lives’ possessions to the spot where we now stood, bathed for the first time in artificial light, surrounded by the sparking promise of electricity.

REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER……

Ere… ere… ere… ere…er….

Err…

Err…

Cast back into darkness the forest was alive. Moths battered themselves against our battery powered lanterns, forcing me to ponder what Darwinian trick had lured their kind to ancient lights; provided only by fire assuring a scorching and immediate death to their ancestors. Instead, their shadows played at the edges of the tent, alluding to monstrous fifteen pound moths, with foot long wingspans.

Our noise, our light and our cooking changed the place subtly, and that night we would listen to moths bat gently against the tent, as packrats looted our trash can.

Civilization had come to the mountain.

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