Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Roughing It" Grows Old

Awaking in the wee hours, I sensed something different. Instead of the soft gurgling of the small stream outside our bedroom, a tumultuous wind roared through the trees and howled in the wires. I glanced at the clock, but the pale green-glowing numbers were gone, replaced by total darkness. Feeling my way to the bathroom, I reminded myself: don’t flush!

Living as we do on the Kitsap Peninsula in western Washington, we are subject to occasional heavy storms. Warmer air and ocean currents rolling in from the southwest bring heavy rains; a collision of air masses over western Canada push south, bringing heavy winds and freezing temperatures. Squeezed tightly between the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Hood Canal, and Puget Sound, our little slice of earth is especially vulnerable to the wiles of the elements. Mature, tall native trees catch the brunt of high winds and can unexpectedly snap like matchsticks. Or, with shallow roots clinging to saturated soils, may simply lose their grip and topple over. Either way, they’re a force to be reckoned with and may cause serious damage or death. More often than not, they cause only a little inconvenience such as power outages.

After years of experiencing these outages, we have our routines: a fire started in the fireplace, stored water retrieved, camp coffee pot brews coffee over Sterno, flashlights, oil lamps, and candles set out, battery-powered radio dug up. Limited opening of refrigerator and freezer doors and closing doors to other rooms helps conserve cold and warmth, as needed. Since we’re on a private well, no electricity means no running water; no turning on faucets and no flushing toilets.

I have to say there is a bit of a pioneer mentality in our house during these times. It is almost fun to see that we’ve not lost our human will and ingenuity to survive and provide ourselves the basics of warmth, food, light, and contact with the outside world. This enjoyment of the basics is directly proportional to how long the outage lasts: The longer it lasts, the less fun it is.

After a day (or more) of “roughing it”, the glamor wears off. I want to zap my cup of tea in the microwave, roast a chicken in the oven, check our e-mails, take a shower, watch the evening news. As evening approaches, things seem gloomier.

For me, the loss of light is the most troubling; without it I feel depressed. We light the oil lamps, some candles, even a battery-powered camp lantern, but it’s not the same. There is the soft, rosy glow for a while - a few hours, maybe - but that soon wears thin. To read or work puzzles, one needs to be close to the light. A trip to another room requires a flashlight - it’s difficult to find your way and what your are after. Candles and oil lamps burn down, batteries grow weak, darkness hovers ever closer.

With usual routines and activities curtailed, boredom and sleepiness take over and we head to bed - fire stoked, flashlights in hand. Oh, for morning and the light of day!

This is the message we have heard from him
and declare to you:
God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5


  1. You haven't just had an outage, have you? It was pretty windy in Gig Harbor earlier today, and I heard someone at the store say it might be a "generator night."

  2. NO - the last one was last Wednesday, 3/9. In our neck of the woods, one never knows however. It's been pretty windy here earlier this morning, but it's dead calm right now...uh oh! Pouring Rain right now & I'm very tired of it. Maybe it is me, but it seems worse and more unrelenting this year. I keep reminding myself that it could always be worse - and send hope & prayers to all those affected across the waters by the huge earthquake/tsunami. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Sherrie!

  3. hey, i can relate to all you say! roughing it DOES get old...we get so used to all our every day conveniences...don't we?
    we live at the 'end of the line' and our power goes out regularly. of course, we're on a well...so when power's out, so's the toilet water...the faucet water...EVERYTHING is electric! what a drag!
    i LOVE the candle light...but when i WANT it...NOT because i have to have it! not for longer than ONE night, anyway! :]laura