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Writing in the Dark

By Janice Ewing


Like many others, my husband and I lost power in the storm on Friday night, March 2nd. Like some others, we are still without power, as the next storm blows in. In fact, our neighborhood sustained more damage last Friday than I can ever remember, with downed trees and power lines, electrical fires, broken backyard sheds, and damaged cars. Fortunately, no one was injured in our area.

On Saturday morning, after surveying the situation at our house and in our immediate neighborhood, we went to a local Panera to decide what to do. It was crowded for the early hour, and everyone was set on charging their various devices as they fueled themselves with coffee. A seat next to an outlet was like a center orchestra seat for Hamilton.

“No power…” new arrivals would simply say, as they contorted their bodies to reach the outlets at a nearby table. The response was always empathetic. Once settled in, we listed what we would have to do without: heat, light, hot water, TV, and other things we take for granted but don’t absolutely need, like toast. We did have an intact house. PECO estimated restoration of power at 11:59 on Tuesday, which sounded a lot like Wednesday, which turned out to be when the next storm was coming. (It also turned out to be overly optimistic.) We considered the options of staying with relatives or friends, or possibly booking a hotel room, but agreed that, if possible, our first choice was to stay put with our two cats, both of whom are terrible travelers and even worse at adjusting to a new environment. The highest priority was a safe and practical source of heat, and after some internet research and a phone consult with a helpful brother-in-law, we decided on a kerosene heater.



At the local Lowe’s, the salesclerk informed us that, no, there were no kerosene heaters in stock, regardless of what the website reported. I called the next closest Lowe’s and was informed that the website indicated they were in stock. I asked the employee to please take a look, based on our previous experience. After an old-fashioned ‘check the shelf’ confirmation, we headed to the next closest Lowe’s and found the highly coveted item — the Dyna-Glo 23.000 BTU Convection Kerosene Heater. This was new to us, so my husband and I read the info on the box carefully. He went to get the needed kerosene, in a different aisle, and I continued to scrutinize the box, including the side with the Spanish explanation (I do not speak or read Spanish). Another customer wandered over who had ‘that look’ and I knew he was a fellow traveler on this journey.

“No power?” I asked, as I now knew to get right to the point.

“Yeah, you too?”

“Right, we’re going to try this out.”

“Me too,” he said with a note of uncertainty.

“We have pets, and it’s easier for us to stay home,” I added.

“Same here,” he said. “Thing is, I’m a little afraid of it.”

“I know what you mean,” I said.

My husband came back with the kerosene and we put it in the cart, along with the heater. We talked to our fellow traveler for a few more minutes, comparing detours we’d had to make around trees to get to the store, and then went on our way.

Fast forward a few hours, and we had a warm glowing heater spreading warmth through our living room, and up the stairs. Our cats were intrigued by it, and drawn to the warmth, so we had to keep a vigilant eye on them. Of course, we turned it off before bed and hunkered down under extra blankets. It seemed like kind of an adventure.

Now fast forward five days, and the adventure has changed us. Through our pursuit of Kerosene, we’re now familiar with every Lowe’s in the Philadelphia region. Visits to friends’ houses are now viewed primarily as shower and phone charging opportunities. Our own house has come to resemble a campsite, with lots of flashlights, blankets, and non-perishable food. So maybe we are temporarily without our usual comforts and conveniences, but not without power. We can still write in the dark.

In what ways have you or your students ‘written in the dark?’ Share your experiences below.

About the author:

Janice Ewing is a PAWLP co-director and an instructor in Cabrini University’s Reading Specialist Program. You can currently find her looking out the back window of her kitchen with gratitude as a back-up crew from Chicago is working in the snow to try to restore power today.







2 Comments Post a comment
  1. ritasorrentino #

    Janice, thanks for shedding light on the plight of so many in the aftermath of the storm. Your writing in the dark captured an important slice of life as you and your Lowe’s/Panera’s comrades dealt with new challenges to keep warm, connected and safe. I suspect there are more vignettes to surface from this adventure.


    March 7, 2018
    • janiceewing #

      Thanks Rita. Update — we’re back on the grid! Hope we all stay connected during this current storm!


      March 7, 2018

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