Last week’s snow storm was the first snow storm I did not feel that kid-on-Christmas feeling. For those of you not in the Northwest, was happened was that we got our annual three days of snow. This year it was called Snopocalypse 2012. Last winter we had Snomagedon. As in, we got enough snow that we didn’t get grass stains when we went sledding. (That used to happen to me all the time when I was a kid. I was a die-hard sledder in those days. Anything whitish was enough of an excuse.) But media drama aside, this year was kind of a doozy. Because of how many trees broke in the ice, the power was out over most of rural King County. We were without power for three days. That meant no water (it’s an electric pump), no cookstove, no internet. We have a wood stove, so we could keep part of the house cozy, but we were stuck at home as the driveway was iced in and too many trees were falling down to make going on a walk a very good idea. So there we were, my parents, my brother, me, three dogs, and a cat, all in the two warm rooms of the house. With no showers and no internet.
Now, my family is pretty outdoorsy. We all like camping and we all like adventures. And even without electricity, the house was cozy and plush. We cooked some gourmet meals on the wood stove (bacon, french toast, filleted leg of lamb with apple mint jelly), and had plenty of candles for light on the still-long evenings. I have lived off the grid before, and really like having minimal electronics. I love how quiet the world is without all the humming, buzzing, and floor-shaking electric bass electricity allows. But this was different. This was four people who are mildly tired of each other, stuck together without our usual distractions. This was mega-crankiness. This was familial suffication. “If this went on for a month, people would die!” My mom proclaimed on the second day. “They would go crazy and die. I’m not talking about us. We would adapt. I’m not so sure about other people.” Personally, I am not so sure about her either.
It was a bit of a wake-up call all around about how emotionally dependent we are on the internet. There was this restlessness, this sense that the world was passing us by. I was desperate to check my email, so sure that there were urgent things waiting for me that would change everything about all the things that felt stuck in my life. Without the internet, it felt there was no motion. Interestingly enough, when I finally did check, none of the emails I was hoping for had come. The restlessness was all my own.
It did make me think about my relationship with energy as well. I became more comfortable in dusky light, more comfortable using other senses instead of switching on big lights automatically. I played more banjo than I had in a long time, and wrote a letter. I realized I would love to live a life with less electricity, but a life that is set up with workable low-energy systems. I like running water in my sink. I like hot showers. I like at least some internet. I’d be happy with fewer electric lights and no toaster or TV and I actually prefer a nice outhouse to a flush toilet, but I do like to be able to wash my hands.