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Reflections in the Dark

July 30, 2023

I usually get up between 3 and 4:30 a.m. If I wake up earlier, I stay in bed until at least 3. Walking is a significant part of most days. I usually get on the treadmill for 90 minutes, shower, and read news for 90 minutes to two hours, and then on and off throughout the day.

We eat supper between 3:30 and 4 p.m., and then I try to get on the treadmill for another 90 minutes. Sometimes I can’t do both walks. Things disrupt. Toothaches. Travel. Body aches.

I have tried to walk forest roads but things work against me. First, I live on a lane in a network of lanes; Lanes crowned and gravelly; Difficult to walk. I walk in the middle, but it is still not optimal because of crown, uneven surfaces, and gravel.

Another difficulty is that it is tough getting old. If I walk the same distance as on the treadmill, regardless of speed (5 miles per walk), and my knee(s) and/or back object (to distance, speed, or load), I’m some distance from home. That must be retraced. With objecting back and/or knee(s).

Reading the news is another daily activity. Even when I can’t walk, I still read the news. I get my news via the Internet. Given that my wife and I worked from home, the Internet was just that much more important. If the power goes out, the Internet is usually still available. I just can’t get to it if my modem is off. There is one common denominator to most of this. Electricity. Treadmill. Internet modem. Computers. Radio. Television. There is more.

My stove and water heater are electric. Air conditioner is electric. Furnace is propane. With a side of electric for the fan. My toilets use water. The pump that delivers the water to the toilets… yep. Electric. I even need electricity for water.

I live in a red water area, as I’ve written before. I have a purification system that involves a sediment filter and a set of flow injectors that introduce precise amounts of pot ash and chlorine into the stream, catalysts to the electrolysis process that coaxes iron out of the water just before releasing it to the final user. The electrolysis part of the process requires… you guessed it… electricity.

I live in the forest. I can see the forest. And the trees. And I often see the trees leaning on groaning wires that carry electricity. Wires carry electricity and often trees. In the forest, trees and electricity are in a constant ‘dance’ that introduces questions into the flow of electricity. The answer is in the blowing wind. Electricity is disrupted.

Another source of whack to the balance is forest drivers who strike the poles (with their vehicles) that support the wires that deliver the electricity. Something there is that doesn’t love a flow of electricity. That sends a drunken ground swell into it. And spills their upper reaches into the road. And snow and ice add their weight to the equation.

When I first moved to the forest, I already had a portable generator. We purchased it years earlier after a mishap with line drop at a performance of the band my son was in at that time. This line drop blew out the band’s loudspeakers ending the performance. The speakers were a $1,500 investment. I resolved, going forward, that power was always close enough to equipment that length of extension cords would never again be a factor. I thus came to the forest generator-prepared and it rescued us frequently in the years before retirement.

As we approached retirement, we tried to anticipate expenses that would be crippling in days of less-flexible incomes. Roof. Windows. Air conditioner. Siding. Decking. All we could anticipate being large expenses for smaller incomes were addressed. Among these was a standby generator.

My portable generator had seen us through many outages, but there are disadvantages to a portable generator. First, it runs on gasoline. Regardless of the size of the tank, there is a limitation introduced by proportion of gasoline in tank to duration of outage. We once endured an outage of four days. That introduced gas station trips and refills. There is a battery or a pull rope. Batteries die between use. Ropes break. And remember that ‘tough getting old’ thing.

Another disadvantage is the procedure when power fails. If the generator is not where it must be for connection, someone must move it. It is not light, and while 50-year-old e.g. was up to the task, it became a heavier burden on e.g. at 68. (My wife was never able to do this part.) And I couldn’t count on being 68 forever.

Further, power failures rarely happen when it is sixty degrees and sunny. We planned for rainy days. A standby generator was a big step in that preparation. Our standby generator runs on propane and switches off and on automatically. And self-diagnoses every Saturday at noon.

The point of all this is that without power, it can get pretty dark and quiet in a forest. Our generator can get us most of what we normally need. If there is Internet, we also have news and entertainment.

As I write this, power is out AND Internet is down. Fifty-plus hours and counting. My generator is chugging. I can still write, as I’m doing this minute. My wife reads and sews and quilts. She has things to lighten her hours (in addition to me). We enjoy talking to each other, having lived together for almost half a century; Twenty-four-seven for the last ten years. I know how good I have it. I appreciate my lot. A lot have less. There are life-altering problems faced by others in the world. I’m sure any Ukrainian would cluck at my ‘tribulations’. I’m princess soft with pea-sized problems. I suspect in that light, we’re all pretty soft. I hope we all realize how good we have it, even when things briefly go dark. Lights will almost certainly shine again. With a generator, I can reflect on the dark in the light.

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