The juxtaposition of the ever-worsening news about the Gulf oil spill and our almost-two-day-long power outage has got me into a dither about the environment.
Gaia knows, we try to tread lightly on her here, what with my gardening and my chickens, and my husband\’s insistence on making each car trip count for at least two errands, and other little things such as keeping the thermostat down in winter and not having air conditioning in summer, and using energy-saving bulbs even though I don\’t like them. Still, the last couple of days have shown how far we are from living a green life. In fact, if I had to put a color on it, I\’d say our life is more towards the orange end of the spectrum.
When we heard that 13,000 people were without power–and in the country, no power means no water, either–we decided it was time to fire-up the gas-fueled generator that had sat unused since we bought it three years ago. But we had to go get some gas, and we couldn\’t do that because there was a big tree lying across our driveway. Fortunately, we did have enough gas so my husband could run his power saw and slice the forest giant into pieces we could move. Otherwise, we\’d have had to walk five miles to the nearest gas station.
By the time the generator was up and running, the fridge and freezer had been without power for a good twelve hours, so the first priority was to get them cold. This meant that we still couldn\’t use any water, so I started hauling upstairs gallon jugs full of H2O that I had been accumulating in the basement against just such an emergency.
That was when I realized that it takes over two gallons of water to fill our toilet tanks. Our well (knock on wood) has always given us all the sweet, icy-cold water we have needed no matter how many guests were living in the house. Still, flushing away all those gallons while the West dries up is a slap on Gaia\’s face. I\’m going to fill some quart jars with water and put them in those tanks, and do my bit to keep the desertification of North America at bay.
When we figured that the fridge and freezer were cold again, my husband switched the generator to the well pump. We had running water! We could wash our faces! We could take a (cold, cold) shower! But we couldn\’t open the fridge. And, once the sun went down and my husband went to a function in another village, I was left in the dark.
What could I do in the dark? I didn\’t miss watching TV, since I never watch TV while my husband is out, because I can\’t work the eight remotes. I couldn\’t freeze the spinach that was bolting in the garden. I couldn\’t write. I could meditate…but I didn\’t want to meditate. I wanted to read my Trollope novel. I wanted to find out whether Lady Glencora Palliser would elope with the gorgeous but unreliable Burgo Fitzgerald. So I found a candle, and I lit it.
This is how mankind has been reading novels since time immemorial–by the light of a candle, right? After last night\’s experience, I have to say that I don\’t know how they did it. My candle, when I first lit it, was too tall to properly light my book; I had to hold up the book so the page would be on the same level as the light. When my arms got tired, I picked up the candle and held it with one hand, and held the book with the other. Trollope\’s novels are thick, however, and it\’s hard to hold one open with a single hand. Besides, you need a free hand to turn the pages.
Eventually, I gave up and went to bed (without brushing my teeth, as the generator was hooked to the fridge and freezer). As the moonlight poured into the bedroom, I lay listening to the generator\’s machine-gun-like blasts and tried to calculate how many gallons of gas we were using to keep our food cold.
This morning, with the generator still sounding like the battle of the Somme, I found that I couldn\’t settle to any task. Everything I tried to do either required access to the fridge, while the generator was powering the well pump, or it required water, while the generator was hooked to the fridge. For a little while the generator was plugged (or whatever) into our router, so I had Internet access…but I couldn\’t tarry on Facebook, since the freezer was getting warm.
This afternoon we got our power back. I was able to freeze my spinach. I was able to read my book. And it\’s heavenly to no longer have to hear the generator\’s ungodly racket.
But I find my very relief upsetting, since it is a measure of how very far from the green end of the spectrum my life is. I\’d like to nudge it a bit more in the right direction–for one thing, it would make me feel less helpless when I hear the oil spill reports– but I\’m not sure that is possible.