And that was the problem. There was plenty of electricity in the air but none in our cottage. And that is how our week of vacation began. But I really should take you back an hour. As we neared the cottage and had turned down the final length of the narrow road that ended at the entrance to our cabin, we found my son-in-law’s vehicle abandoned in the road. Lying fully across the road and up the embankment on the other side, was a way too large to move birch tree. The storm had taken it down and even now as the rain began again in earnest, electricity filled the air. John had had to abandon his vehicle about an hour earlier as he was returning to the cottage with my three year old grandson, Jackson. After an ill-fated attempt to cut the tree with a hand saw, he and Jackson had braved the storm and walked back to the cottage where my daughter and our three month old granddaughter, Adela, were waiting for them. Fortunately for us, a rescue crew of cottage neighbors had arrived at the tree and were cutting it in to manageable pieces with a chain saw. After a stint rolling the logs off the road, we were on the final leg to the cottage.
We arrived at the darkened cottage to find that the wind and lightning had taken out the power. This is an all too familiar occurrence in the north woods and we already feared that we would be out of power for a while. Let me emphasize “a while”. That was soon to become a relative term. For those of you who fantasize about being off the grid, let me tell you that you might leave that as a fantasy. Without power there is no TV to watch while you are trapped inside by a raging rain storm. No big deal. There is also no electricity for the refrigerator or the oven. Slightly bigger deal as your frozen food melts and your perishables, well perish. And then every time you grab for a light switch you realize you better start conserving the batteries in your only two flashlights. You are off the grid and starting to hope this doesn’t last long. But it does.
Now comes the next item that succumbs to lack of electricity. Remember the hot water you love for your shower, sorry, that too runs on electricity as does the pump that runs the well. Forget about the shower if there isn’t any water anyway. And then it dawns on you, it might be time to ration your time in the bathroom because yes, flushing without water is just another exercise in futility which is fast becoming the title of this vacation.
Evening came and with it the darkness only being off the grid can provide. You have flicked on the light switch now for the millionth time with nothing returning but that empty click. You retire to bed early just like you ancestors did, 8:00 pm, and convince yourself normalcy will be back on in the morning. First light comes at 5:00 am and off course you are up, you’ve been sleeping for nine hours already. You check the clock, still running on battery, and fool yourself that the power is on. Reach for the switch and nothing. Day two begins, no change, no charge, no power.
The final straw lands on your shoulder when your coffee addicted spouse asks for her morning cup of Joe. You remind her that the coffee maker, like everything else, needs juice. Not the liquid type, the electric type. And she threatens divorce.
I need you to feel the emotions we were experiencing to make the moment the electricity returned have its true effect. Our last desperate call to the power company had warned us that it could be another 24 to 30 hours before they got power restored as we were one of only two hundred patrons left without power. Did they really mean that to feel like an honor to be proud of? Yes folks, you are our frontline soldiers holding the line against the evils of advancing society. We soldiered through another day off the grid, cell phones dying, arm pits smelling like pits and Jackson being taught the amazing joy of going to the bathroom in the great outdoors and well, being a male. We retired to our beds at first crack of dark dreaming of the joys of electricity. It was 2:30 AM when the call came. I kid you not, the power company called us to proudly announce that after 38 hours, they had restored our power. Thanks to you brave soldiers for your valiant fight to stay alive. And what did we do? Well we turned on every electric run item we could find, sang Kum by Yah and danced around the cottage like a bunch of medieval druids. If we had still had any un-perished perishables available, we would have likely cooked up a feast.
And so my friends, as I have had power returned to my lap top, and I have come to the reality that I am really not a pioneer, I felt compelled to write down this little piece of history. If you are still fantasizing about going off the grid, get a grip. It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. You’re my hero Mr. Edison.