Thursday, July 5, 2012


We are now going on 66 hours without electricity. We have two or three power outages every year, and almost like some cosmic tradition, they usually happen in sweltering heat. We were in the thick of the straight line winds that hit Itasca County on Monday night, leveling majestic towering pine trees like they were year-old saplings. We have many more trees down, and all of Dick’s hard work the past 3 weeks cleaning up from the carnage of the April blizzard has been in vain. We have another war zone. The county-wide demand for linemen to repair snapped power lines is vast, and we are in the boonies and last on the priority list. Based on the information we have, we are expecting several more days without power.
Power outages are really the only stressor we have at the lake. Well, okay, major appliances breaking down and every-10-year army worm infestations qualify too. But none of them SHOULD be stressors, you know? I think we have strayed too far into creature comforts.
Three years ago, after 22 summers of losing our refrigerated food, and living in darkness and oblivion (no media), we bought a generator. It was the best $400 we have ever spent. Ours stopped working about 10 hours into this outage, necessitating a trip to town to have a blessedly-available motor shop work on it. Capacitor replaced (yes, Back to the Future fans, there is such a thing as a capacitor), we have it up and running now and appreciate our 4-plug options. One goes to the refrigerator. The other three are low wattage mix-and-match. The past 3 days of the outage, with the heat index in the cottage feeling like about 137 degrees, we have chosen 2 fans and a lamp. At news time, we exchange light for the TV. Last night I exchanged a fan to charge this laptop. But most of the time, air, food, and light are the ongoing staples we choose.
The lake is lukewarm this year, so bathing in it is no big deal. Thank the Lord for biodegradable soap and a lake to clean up in. We’re using a little camp stove, flushing the toilet with buckets of lake water, and fetching gas and drinking water from the little store 11 miles to the south. It is all our temporary normal.
At dinner last night, Dick and I talked about how arrogant it really sounds to be upset by this sans-power life. We know that 50% of the world’s population lives in abject poverty on less than $2 per day. What we have in a power outage with a 4-plug generator would be incomprehensible to them…....considered high end luxury. We have a clean lake, a safe home with windows and door and wood rather than dirt floors. We have refrigerated food. Mattresses to sleep on. Fans. FANS! An indoor toilet. I mean, we have SO much more without the convenience of electricity than those 3 billion people have ever had that I feel shame in any complaining.
What would my great-great-great grandmother Catherine Bolger think of grousing over the lack of power? She who fled Ireland during the potato famine to create a new, hard, but good life in the Mississippi River bluffs of Harper’s Ferry, Iowa. With no power tools. No appliances. No furnace. No running water. No plumbing. No electricity. I wonder if all of our ancestors would be appalled at America’s collective expectation of living lives of ease and convenience.
I have to admit to letting myself feel stress and frustration those first 12 hours after an outage. Your life sort of feels turned on edge for a while as you adjust to living differently. But then you adapt. Even today, on day 3, it is “just the way it is” and life flows on.
What helps is reminding myself that I live a privileged life with all too many things that make my life convenient. And sensing God is teaching me some sweet humility and pioneer spirit on the gusts of those straight line winds.


Anonymous said...

so glad to hear you and Dick are ok, as well as the cabin !

Pipsylou said...

Something about that last line made my heart lurch a little bit. Man, what you can do with a pen! (or keyboard). :)

"And sensing God is teaching me some sweet humility and pioneer spirit on the gusts of those straight line winds."