At the time of writing this post, I am experiencing being without power and it is telling me a lot about myself and about our reliance on power. This is the second power outage that I have experienced while staying at this new temporary home in the beautiful wilderness that is the Sunshine Coast.
A power outrage was something that I dreaded, what I would have to do, how long would it last, what would I feel when it happened etc. Therefore experiencing the first outage was a good thing. It happened, I survived and life went on, after a few hours of wondering if the power would be restored.
The first one came in the middle of the night during a severe wind storm that kept me awake and wondering if the roof would blow off the house or the windows of the bedroom would shatter. So I was not surprised that the power went off. Nonetheless it was unsettling. Given that it was 3:00 am there was little else to do but try to go back to sleep which I eventually did only to be awakened by an alarm sounding in the house which I was happy to discover signalled the return of power. Everything returned to normal, internet returned and thus a sigh of relief. Okay so that was not that bad.
Today’s loss of power also comes courtesy of wild winds and lots of precipitation. It was mid-morning so noticing that my music stopped playing was my first hint that I was going to experience another outage. Sure enough the somewhat reassuring beep coming out of the upstairs office confirmed this. Instantly I found myself filled with a sense of dread-how long would it last? being the biggest question flooding my mind.
I surveyed the situation and thought “hey this is not that bad”. It is daytime so no worry about finding flashlights or stumbling about in the dark. I had put the fireplace on before the power went out and it stayed on so that was good, besides the in-floor heating system in the house ensures that the house would stay relatively warm for several hours if not days without power. Besides I always had the option of putting on more layers of clothing if need be. This was a perfect chance to get one of my many books, sit by the fire and do some reading, or I could do some Pilates exercise, or meditate or have a shower or some combination but none of this was happening.
It was all the other stuff that I could NOT do that had me unsettled and this in turn made me recognize just how reliant we are on power in everything we do. How long would the fridge keep things cold? Should I use the propane stove to boil water to make coffee in something other than the coffee maker that you need to plug in? If I had to leave and drive somewhere would I be able of figure out how to open the garage door that is usually reliant on electricity? And other questions swan around in my mind.
I realized that even without power I would be able to use my laptop (until the battery ran low) but I would not be able to print and scan the documents that I had planned to nor could I send or receive emails or go on web. I could use my phone and even fill the email gap and in a desperate situation go to the web but as the battery was low I thought it best to leave what charge I had for more important things say phone calls if the power was tardy in returning.
Overall, it became clear to me that I was NOT in a dire straits situation and yet I was paralyzed by being cut-off from something that for the most part we take for granted – having access to power. I noticed that having to think differently about what I might do with my time without the option of power dependent activities had me slightly rattled. Perhaps this worry comes from a heightened awareness about our need to look at how we use power, how we produce power and what both of these are doing to our planet and to us. How has our use of fossil fuels impacted the environment and thus our weather patterns which in turn have the potential to impact our access to power as is the case in my situation this morning? More importantly what are we doing as individuals and as a society to plan and prepare for a different relationship to power, one that is friendly to the planet and thus better for humanity.
The alarm has sounded here and thus I once again have full access to power. Each time I have experienced being without power I am left with a greater respect for it and believe I am more cognizant of just how much power I am using and why. The alarm has also sounded for our planet but unlike the alarm I heard here today, this alarm is not signalling relief. Rather this alarm is asking us as a society to take notice.