Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 21, 2003
Slam the brakes on your life
Gear down, idle and simplify the day
By SUZANNE ELSTON
What was that? The alarm in my husband's voice woke me from a deep sleep. As my ears and eyes opened to the world around me, I heard an electronic hiss outside our bedroom window. Its companion, a phosphorescent green light, illuminated the pre-dawn sky. By the time I was conscious enough to realize what was happening, the light show was over.
"Wow, was that ever cool," Brian enthused. I sat up in bed beside him and looked across the driveway to the apparent source of his early morning entertainment. An overhead wire, loaded down with ice, had stretched to the point that it had made contact with a tree branch. A nearby transformer, we calculated, was being overloaded by the additional contact, and hence the early morning excitement.
I looked over at my clock radio. It glowed 5 a.m. The time told me two things - first of all, the power was still on. Secondly, given the hour, it was unlikely that my internal alarm clock would let me go back to sleep. I reached for my housecoat at the foot of the bed and started to get up.
"Where are you going?" Brian asked.
When you live on a well, being without power means that you're also without water, because it has to be pumped up from the ground. We both knew that if the power wasn't out yet, it would be shortly. Since I was already awake, I figured I fill up the tub so we at least have water for washing and flushing. While I was at it, I decided I'd make us both some coffee and we could enjoy the early morning peace and quiet.
"Good idea", Brian said.
Suddenly, everything was quiet. Thanks to the ice storm, even the sounds of traffic were non-existent. The only noise we could hear was the occasional rattle of the wind against our window. With coffee in hand, snuggled under the covers, we were warm and safe. We had nowhere to go, and without power or water, we had nothing to do. It was an amazing feeling.
After a few moments, Brian said quietly, "I think I've figured out what's wrong." I was so busy enjoying what was right about the morning that his comment initially took me by surprise. Then he explained,
"Our generation is the first generation that hasn't had to worry about being limited by the environment. Time was that people stopped working at the end of the day because everybody else did. Thanks to computers, email and various other forms of information technology we can work 24 hours a day - so we do. Cell phones mean that we're always accessible. We have no boundaries, no restrictions. We are unlimited by light, or the lack of it. Weather extremes are mitigated by central heating and air-conditioning.
People used to nap in the afternoon if it got too hot. They'd sleep when it was dark, curl up by the fire to stay warm when it was too cold to venture outside. Now it doesn't matter if it's 30 degrees above zero, or 30 degrees below. Thanks to SUVS and mini-vans, steel-belted radials and airbags, even getting around is no longer a problem. We carry our thermostatically controlled five-star rated safe houses around with us. We are always on, accessible and ready."
And then he added, "And we're exhausted."
I had to agree. In having so much, we've given up our capacity to relax. Taking time to recharge and heal is considered unproductive. These days, even recreation is a scheduled and planned event.
It isn't just our lives that are worn out either. Our activities are mirrored on the weary face of Mother Earth. Gas-guzzling vehicles throw greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while creating smog at ground level, nuclear waste from power plants threatens countless generations into the future and mounds of garbage of all sorts plague the land and pollute the water. And all of this is done in the name of productivity and convenience.
I made a silent promise to myself to do less and enjoy it more when the refrigerator began to hum in the kitchen below.
The power was back on.
It doesn't have to be so complicated. Check out the Simple Living Network at www.simpleliving.net.
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