Monday, December 6, 2010

Reflections On Power

Electrical power, that is.  Specifically, power outages.

Last week, because of a big wind storm, we were without power for 48 hours.  That means, theoretically, sans lights, sans water (because the well pump runs on electricity), sans stove, or heat, or clocks or radio or computers.  And food rotting in the fridge and freezer.

In reality, because we have a gas-powered generator, we did have water, and our winter food reserves did not go bad.  We had one lamp, and we even had TV, and internet access.  And, of course, we had our wood stove.

But we had big extension cords all over the house, over which we and the dogs kept tripping.  And we had to plan what we were going to use when.  And we kept turning things off so as not to use too much gas.  And the generator in the garage sounded the Battle of the Somme.

I hated it.

I was surprised by how much it got to me.  Power outages in summer are a different matter.  Then it's warm, and there's stuff to do outside, and it stays light until almost 10 p.m.  But these days it gets dark by 4:30, and it's cold, and every last lumen is precious.

I'm ashamed to admit that this December outage put me in a foul mood. My resentment was compounded by feelings of guilt and unworthiness, which in turn made me even less pleasant to be around.  Why did I feel guilty and unworthy?  Because, I said to myself:

1.  Think of the millions of people around the world who have no electricity, ever, and who would kill to have a generator blasting away in their garage--if they had a garage.

2.  You have clean, fresh, lovely water.  You can drink and wash your hands and take hot showers.  Think of the millions of people, etc.

3.  If you're tired of microwaved snacks, you can get in the car and go to a restaurant and have a hot meal.  Think of the millions, etc.

4.  If you are feeling this way now, what are you going to do when the real Armageddon strikes?  When there is no electricity, and no gas for the generator.  When hungry hordes roam the land.  When you run out of firewood and dog food and shampoo?  A local power outage is nothing compared to what you may have to face sometime in your remaining years.  Living in Vermont is no guarantee of anything.

Then, in the middle of my darkest musings, the power came on.  And, reader, I rejoiced.  I laughed and cheered and was happy.  I felt purposeful and energized.  Suddenly my every cell was bursting with  joie de vivre.

Why?  Because now I could go into a room and flick my finger and, behold, there was light.  Because I could have soup simmering on the stove while answering my e-mail.  Because the extension cords were gone.  Because the generator was silent at last.

Then, of course, I started beating myself up about being happy just because the power was back.  What kind of moral mettle was mine, to be destroyed and restored by the vagaries of the power company, the wind, the weather?  Shouldn't I be standing on some firmer moral ground?  Shouldn't I have more substantial emotional reserves to call upon?

Maybe I should, but the fact is, I don't.  I'm just another benighted child of the modern age, addicted to light and heat and instant access across the globe.  Just because I raise a ton of Swiss chard every summer doesn't mean I'm self-sufficient.  I know that now.

3 comments :

  1. I was voted most likely to join a paramilitary group and live off the grid in high school (it was called something else then--maybe militia? I don't remember). But yeah, seriously? I like my coffee and my washing machine and all that way too much.

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  2. Bridgett, how interesting that you showed that independent streak at the most unindependent time of life--adolescence.

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