June 2000 Blackout

by Jean Jackman

Hybrid Nonfiction


In my North Davis neighborhood
on a summer night—
with homes cocooned
by sounds of air conditioners
and closed up windows.
The lights went out.


I was in bed reading when darkness came.
“Hey—what are you doing?” I called to my husband.
“The lights are out.”
Thinking now he’s done it
as he was fixing the refrigerator.


I peered out across the park.
No lights on the other side. Instead—
indigo silhouettes of trees and houses
against a lighter-toned sky.
I opened the windows to hear—
the silence.


Soon, flashlights
and lanterns in yards, dancing.
“…dark across the park, too.”
“…just drove… whole section is out…”
“…got people coming to see if they
want to buy my house.”
“Want us to fire up some
lanterns for you?”
A group with candles strolled by.


One man stood on his lawn
and spoke into a handheld CB,
“This is Ellamae, Ellamae
sign on with news of why
the lights are out.”


passed by on bicycles,
turned back, stopped
to talk.


On the corner,
teenagers gathered around a fat candle
watching mosquitoes get
trapped in the wax.


Next street over, people were playing with darkness too.
Big Brian, the football player
lay on his lawn
toying with two kittens.
“These are my girls,” he shouted.


The Mabuchi’s dinner party was aglow
lit by a dozen candles.
I laughed along with their
conversations too.


Farther down the block,
children shrieked
as they slid on a slip-and-slide.
A kerosene camping lantern on a tree branch
the only light for their raucous party.


Neighbors gathered at the end of the street
talking quietly. They hailed me as I strolled past.
We looked up and saw the stars
so newly visible.


You know,
one night a week,
I’d even settle for one night a month
lights out.



Jean Jackman has written a nature column with photographs for the Davis Enterprise newspaper for 16 years. Her life is filled with adventures. She has hopped freight trains, completed a double century bike race, biked from California to Florida and Canada to Mexico. Her vocations have ranged from school movement/music specialist to oral historian to dance company director. She was an Artist in Bioregional Residence at University of California, Davis. She discovered the pleasures of memoir in a writing class and is currently at work on a collection of personal essays about the importance of risk-taking.

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