Power Outages

Power Outages

We’ve recently moved house, back to where I grew up. Not much has changed here, but I have changed in my time in the suburbs. I also am bringing a whole new perspective as I see the experiences through my wife’s eyes for the first time.

We’ve lost power three times in the last 2 months, for 14 hours, 10 hours, and 2 hours, respectively. These all coincided with snowy weather as well (the last one snow was actively falling and the road was already impassable). This is not out of the ordinary for out here, and my childhood prepared me to know exactly what to do to be comfortable and — more importantly — be sure my wife and daughter are safe. But there is always something about the juxtaposition of a power outage.

One hour, we’re sitting there having a normal afternoon. I’m working on my 2 company-provided monitors while texting coworkers on my phone. My wife is watching the olympics while occasionally snapping pictures of the baby or texting her friends. Five screens going at any given time. Not to mention the heater, the bottle warmer, the white noise machine for the napping baby, the lights…

The next hour we’re hanging out by the fire perfectly happy in the fading light. All the devices are either off or in a low power state. Knowing the power may be out for the better part of a day, we’re even conserving the power in our batteries/generators. We’re all perfectly content and our only concern is we haven’t actually grilled a frozen pizza before.

Then the power comes back on. The dark room is flooded with light. Devices throughout the house start beeping (and we don’t even have a “smart” house). The heat roars to life drowning out the silence.

It sure does throw the surplus of our everyday lives into perspective. And I’ve rarely had a meal as good as post-power outage ramen packets. Yes, even the fanciest and most expensive meal I’ve ever had.

Personally, these experiences drive me further on the path of minimalism. If I wouldn’t use it during a power outage, why am I using the rest of the time? If I wouldn’t waste precious battery power on it when there’s no recharging, why would I do so the rest of the time?

But there are other experiences out here that have similar effects. Sometimes the water goes out up here, either because the well is broken or a pipe gets busted. That really changes the perspective. Rarely (thankfully), we have a wildfire scare and simultaneously start packing up the valuables and getting to work on preventative measures outside. I recently had too many people that I know lose their homes in the Marshall Fire. If you wouldn’t grab it from your house as fire crests the ridge, is it really something you need?

Now, of course, that are somethings that we do need that we don’t use in a power outage or grab in a fire. The fridge, the oven, etc. But do you need the participation certificate from your 6th grade science fair? Do you need taxes from 10 years ago? Do you need a hard drive full of movies you’ve watched less than once? Do you need that full closet or all those kitchen gadgets?

I know some people recommend occasional fasting. I have even tried it myself a few times. But it requires a force of will, and only shifts your perspective on food. I recommend everyone live without power for a full day on occasion. Or without water. Or plan your evacuation strategy for your local natural disaster. And afterwards, think about the stuff you didn’t grab. The stuff you didn’t need. And rethink it all.