Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Electricity (or the lack thereof)

We think very little about the wonder of electricity until it goes out.  Our lights are electric.  Many of us cook on electric stoves, or in electric ovens, or in microwave ovens.  Our furnaces will not turn on without electricity.  If your home has a well, it runs with an electric pump.  That water is then heated with a water heater that requires electricity to turn on and off.

The United States is a nation that runs on electricity.  Sometimes that electricity shuts off.  People cannot do their work. It relies on electricity.  Schools close down because there are no lights (and the windows do not let in enough natural light) and the heat won't kick on without electricity.  Neighborhoods go dark except for candles or lanterns.  Some people possess gasoline powered generators, but this is a temporary solution.

My house was without power for only 26 hours, but in that time the inside temperature dropped by 15 degrees (Fahrenheit).  It wasn't cold, but it was less comfortable.  My wife had some work that she had to do - work requiring a computer and internet access (which doesn't work without power).  I sent her to a hotel room for the night.  A friend's family was staying in the same hotel, while he was trying to find a generator to run a pump to keep their basement from flooding.

Compared the effects of storms on other parts of the world, what we experienced was an inconvenience.

Interestingly, two of the last three books that I have read were about people living in hard times and hard places.

Paddling to Winter by Julie Buckles is a book about a newlywed couple's decision to canoe from their home in Wisconsin north to the Canadian Arctic.  They traveled 1700 miles by canoe and then spent the winter in a cabin (with no electricity, heated by wood, no running water) loaned by a couple they met along their journey.

Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish is a memoir of a childhood spent on a family farm in small town Iowa during the 1930s.  Her childhood homes were lit by lantern and gas lamp, heated by wood (only in the kitchen and parlor - no heat upstairs in the bedrooms), food was prepared on the wood stove, water was pumped from a well by windmill or by hand, and the bathroom was an outhouse in the back yard. 

While both authors' experience were hard, they were prepared for the hardships.  They knew what to expect.

Reading books like these puts an interesting spin on losing your own electricity (if even for only a short time).  Realizing that much of the world's population still lives without electricity really makes me thankful for those things that we have.

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