Artist's Lane

Sitting in the dark, dead as a doornail


“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.” — Charles Dickens’ famous words in A Christmas Carol.

On a recent Monday morning I woke to a dead, dark house. And of my own knowledge, I can attest that everything in the house was as dead as a doornail in Marley’s coffin. I sat up in the blackness, a blank clock stared back at me. An electric blanket, as cold as Pagosa’s winters, lay stiff as a board across my Sweet Al. I sucked for the air from my CPAP machine. Not a stir of stale air, I threw the ridiculous contraption off my face and stared into nothing.

Monday is my meeting day for writers. I needed to prepare for the day. Nothing to prepare with.

Every gadget, gizmo and electronic device lay dead. What time is it, anyway? I shuffled around to find a flashlight so I could see the battery-operated clock in the living room. No flashlight. I sat down in my recliner; nothing to do but wait it out. The recliner sat stiff in an upright position without my electric foot lift. Horrors.

I can’t sleep through this. It’s uncomfortable. What is going on? I paid the electric bill. I’ll pray. But I’m too worked up and uncomfortable to pray. How can I meet the day? How many bottles of water will I need to heat in a pan on the gas stove? I need a cup of coffee. I’m still sitting in the dark waiting for the sun to come up.

Where’s my Sweet Al when I need him? His even breathing told me he’s sleeping like a baby. I should wake him and tell him about the problem. He might know where he put the flashlight or where the 5-gallon water jugs are so that we can at least carry water from the river.

I sat there. What happened? I didn’t know until later that the wind caused the problem. More than 7,300 Pagosans sat in the dark on May 6. There was a two-hour school delay. Everyone shifted their schedules.

At 6:18 a.m., all was well. The electricity was running through every device in the house again. I headed to the kitchen to the coffee machine.

Another thought came to mind, something that will affect everyone and yet we go about our lives as if nothing could happen. No one talks about the cyberattacks on our electrical grid.

In our writing meeting that day we were challenged to write about something that is relevant and significant to the people around us, something we hadn’t written about before. I knew the perfect topic. Our entire country could experience a cyberattack, and we’re not prepared.

Research told me that U.S. power grids are becoming more vulnerable to cyberattacks, 60 per day of increasing attacks. Did we know any of this? No. We are too busy going about our business without thought to what is happening around us.

It was reported that the grids’ virtual and physical weak spots are susceptible to cyber criminals —22,000 cyberattacks at the end of 2022 and 24,000 last year in 2023.

Manny Cancel, senior vice president of The North American Electric Reliability Corporation said in a webcast, “It’s very hard to keep pace with addressing all those vulnerabilities.”

He continued, “Geopolitical conflict, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the war in Gaza, have dramatically increased the number of cyber threats to North American power grids.

“Threats also commonly come from China, and the regulators said they expect the upcoming U.S. presidential election to increase the probability of attacks on the grid.” 

Oh great, another worry about the election.

When I shared this with a friend, she immediately gave me tips to prepare for blackouts.

Purchase battery-powered plug-in lights that come on when the power goes out. Have solar-powered phone chargers and a generator.

I’m sure this subject will be as dead as a doornail again as we go on living in our comfort. So, what if Marley’s ghost visits us for real the next time and we have a cyberattack on U.S. soil? We need to do more than sit in the dark with our eyes closed or sleep through it.

I have to go back to my basic faith. There is a God; He is in charge. He is very aware of what is going on and He tells us His grace abounds. God promises the sun will come up every morning and He will protect us. Does he not also expect us to prepare with enough oil and trim our lamps until they are needed?

Final brushstroke: Our problems are bigger than a recliner without a comfortable footrest. We’ve grown too lax in this crazy world where everything is getting crazier. We need a bigger faith in a bigger God.

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