How spoiled we are. The power went out when I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting and I immediately felt irritated, cross even. It was the middle of the day and I have a LED bulb in one of my lamps that stays on for several hours if the power goes out, so I wasn’t plunged into sudden dark. I was warm in my house, my hot water tank had hot water. While both would have chilled if the power outage had gone on for many hours, it didn’t. It came back on after a couple of hours and I asked myself, “how did I get this way?” Then I asked, “how did I get so dependent?”
I spent the first few years of my life with no gas, no electricity, and no running water. That was normal to me. The sun rose in the morning and set at night. While we had kerosene lamps, our lives were pretty much ruled by the spinning of our own orbit. As Scotland’s on the same latitude as Southern Alaska, that meant only four hours of true dark in summer and only four hours of true daylight in winter.
Heat came from our coal fire in the living room and the coal stove in the kitchen. There was no other heat in the house. We had warming pans that we filled with embers and swept across our linen sheets before getting into bed in winter. In summer, if it was cold, we just shivered and got in anyway. No one would think to warm sheets in summer.
We conserved water because it was work to haul it home. I still conserve today. If I make soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and the shells don’t crack, I save the water to use for my eggs tomorrow. If the shells crack, I cool the water to use on my garden patch. If I’m washing pots in my sink, the gray water goes on my garden, too. I have a bucket in my shower to collect the cold water that comes before the warm. That water is used for cooking first, garden second. Meanwhile, some of my neighbors still wash their cars in our California drought with fresh water from their hoses.
I’m as bound by modern conveniences as the next person, but I have the memory of something else. And I worry that my dependence will punish me down the line, that I won’t be equipped or able to function without my gas heater, my electric stove, or my running water. Only time will tell, but the next time the power goes out, I’ll remember again that it’s possible.