These autumn days, as night begins to crowd in on dinner time, I am thinking about light switches. How unconsciously we reach for those inconspicuous buttons, levers, and knobs to turn on the reading light or brighten a room. We adjust the dimmer to our satisfaction to set a romantic mood. We set them on timers so that our house will look welcoming or our perimeter well-defended. If a lamp fails to light, our consternation is almost amusing considering what a gift that illumination is.
Each time we operate a light switch, we close an electrical connection. Our humble lamp is connected to large electron factories by wires, hundreds of miles of wires, thousands even. The ever handy Wikipedia tells me that it is not cost-effective to transmit our electricity more than 4000 miles and most lines are much shorter than that. However, in the United States, the wires form an interconnected grid of some 186,000 miles! How mindlessly we operate that giant waterfall of electrons.
When a storm causes the power to go out, then we appreciate how much those clever, now-useless, switches do for us. We fumble about for some candles and light them with matches or a lighter (the modern tinder box), little wonders in their own right. Our computer doesn't work, the stove won't light, the furnace is off. Then suddenly the lights are back! Do we think about the power company linemen who have been out in the storm fixing the wires?
I have met a few people who live off-grid. They understand what a kilowatt is, far better than the rest of us who take for granted an unlimited supply of them.
This evening, when I switch on the lights, I will take a moment to be thankful for this blessing of light at a touch.