Monthly Archives: January 2013

My Life, Unplugged

From mid 2005 to 2008 I lived in a half built house in the woods with no electricity, no running water and no plumbing. Learning to live unplugged is an experience I think everyone should have at least once, and preferably for a couple of full cycles of the seasons.

I felt vividly alive swinging my feet from the tailgate of a pickup truck parked in the back field. I learned things with a hot coffee warming my fingers and coyote songs raising the hair on the back of my neck that they don’t teach in books.

Modern life is built around electricity. We use it to cook and clean, to charge our gadgets, to run our wifi, computers, televisions and cordless phones. We rely on electricity for entertainment, convenience and comfort. People lose count of the number of appliances that are plugged in and standing by at any given moment. Nobody notices the humming of the refrigerator. We take these luxuries for granted, and then we complain that we feel disconnected from the natural world.

When there is no fridge to keep your perishables from perishing and a hand pump is required to get water from the well, you invent all kinds of new ways to manage day to day necessities. Tasks like cooking, bathing, laundry, food handling and dish washing are no longer simple affairs. There is no time to sit around. This lifestyle requires work, and when the work is done it requires maintenance.

Life doesn’t happen the same way when you live in a shack in the woods without modern conveniences. There is no hot water tank in a house without electricity. There is a wood stove in the winter, the sun or a cook fire in the summer. Tooth brushing is not as simple as turning a tap. Making coffee involves pumping water out of the well, heating it by whichever means is available and drinking it or pouring it into a thermos to keep warm. Breakfast doesn’t come from a toaster. It comes from a chicken, or a garden, or a handful of oatmeal on the wood stove.

The food you eat is less processed when you don’t have a microwave or a freezer. Learning to shop for foods that store well and can be prepared in a variety of ways becomes very important. Growing and raising as much of your food as possible makes sense.

Contrary to popular belief, it is easier to live without electricity in the winter, when cold storage is found on the back step or in a snow bank and the wood stove that warms your house is always available to heat food or water.

Something happens. It’s not all heavy lifting and hard work. You get in touch with the seasons. You become more aware of sunrise and sunset – and if you are like me, you take twenty minutes in the morning and at night to watch them happen. You begin to pay attention to the temperatures, not the weather network. You actually notice the signs of a big frost in the days leading up to it, rather than being told. Extending the growing season becomes a matter of survival and common sense, instead of idealistic puttering and relaxation.

It makes sense to go to sleep a little while after the sun goes down. The light is gone. The day has been exhausting and rewarding. It’s time to climb into bed and rest. When you wake up the sky will be starting to turn a dark sapphire blue. It’s a colour that only happens right before the sun begins to rise. It’s the signal that a new day is fast approaching and there is work to be done.

I live in a different house now. It’s a modern house, on the grid. I enjoy my luxuries as much as the next girl and I understand the impact they have on my life. I still do a lot of the things I did when I didn’t have electricity. I enjoy a lot of the same hobbies and I still grow a lot of my food. Spending time outside and watching the weather and temperatures are high priorities for me.

Since living in the woods I pay more attention to what is plugged in and why. I understand how noisy a house is when you have electricity and appliances plugged in and what a quiet house sounds like.  Every once in a while when the power goes out and the incessant white noise stops I close my eyes and hear coyotes.

Republished with permission. Originally appeared on Treewise

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A New Beginning

I have never been one for resolutions.

I usually choose a theme word to sum up my coming year. Some years the word has been health, adventure, creativity or independence. The word is generally accompanied by a vague idea of how I will accomplish this intent. Perhaps I will eat more vegetables, take more trips, or decorate my space with more colours and textures. The path is never clear, but I choose my theme each year and put my best foot forward.

Today a brand new year calendar year is beginning.

By some accounts it is the year that was not meant to happen. By others, it is the dawning of a new age for humankind. The only thing that experts seem to agree on is that this year will bring a shift in consciousness. The great minds of our time predict all kinds of things for this next phase in our existence – and all roads lead to massive change and renewal.

We see this theme constantly in earth based spirituality, and it’s only right. A belief system that is based on cycles that revolve around constant renewal should naturally pattern itself similarly. There is a plethora of new beginnings in paganism. We see this in the turning of the wheel, the phases of the moon, the seasons and the path of the sun and moon across the sky.

If our spirituality has taught us anything, it has told us to be patient. We have witnessed periods of change, great and small. We know that these things take time. We celebrate these changes and have learned to treat each ending as a new beginning.

With the recent publicity surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar there has been a lot of hype, mass hysteria even. For months we have been told that something is coming. Predictions ranged from natural disasters to global mass destruction in the form of an apocalypse.

I remember the year 2000 – yet another date associated, at least in some minds, with disaster and monumental change. It was preceded by weeks of media coverage and dire predictions about global catastrophe. The computers will all crash, they told us, there will be chaos and the world will be plunged into darkness.

Now here we stand, on the very edge of 2013.

There was no great explosion. We are all still here, and life has continued. This seems to be the most constant part of our faith. Life does go on, no matter what happens. The sun will rise, whether we are here to appreciate it or not, and it will make its way across the sky.

I propose that this year, our theme is a new beginning.

Republished with permission. Originally appeared on Treewise

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