I live in a rural area of Oregon, so when storms hit as they do here in the Northwest, it is not unusual for my home to be disconnected from the grid for a week or more. It’s a weird thing to live in the middle of the grid, but not be connected to it. In some deep ways your life can’t really go forward. You are in your home, but unable to take advantage of living in it. My memory of it is a form of being dis-embodied. The other powerful memory I still carry is how easy it is to take the whole grid thing for granted. Kind of like the ozone layer, we only started to notice how well it functioned and protected us after it was broken.
In this country, we are so accustomed to running water, that we hardly give this gift a thought, except to grumble about the increasing costs of keeping it going. It is worth a pause to consider the millions of man hours that went into creating this energy grid that we live in. Then, for the next moment, imagine living on another continent where the grid is barely established and the majority go to bed with the sun and carry water for miles, assuming they can get it.
We are a lucky bunch living within the power grid, however outdated it might be. I grew up in New York, and while I have no memory of any storm like this in my life time, I do remember that New York is not the place that taught me about patience. The crowds of New York teach you to be tough and stand up for your own, so I am not surprised that the grumbling has been reaching proportions that require police protection for the gas lines or outside of the power companies.
The spokesperson for the New Jersey power authority said yesterday that they had to remove over 45,000 trees to repair the service in their area so far. It takes time to repair power grids, especially because we don’t really spend the time, attention and resources to fix them until they are really broken. With the realities of global warming and the storm capacity they will create upon us, how about this for an idea: lets put half the country back to work rethinking our power grid.
Let’s dig deep, create jobs and bury the lines. Let’s invent new technology to show where they break. What if we remember our generation as the ones who created the power grid of the future? Maybe we could even recycle our old power grid supplies for those countries that never grumble when the lights go out, because they don’t have any lights.
For those thousands of friends who are walking around their lives, waiting for it to turn back on, I send my deepest compassion for how hard it is to wait for normalcy. When you consider how to be patient for the hours or days left in this vigil, keep this one thought in mind: how can I not make this worse? If you could only find one way to not make it work, you will find a new level of patience that will warm your heart even when your heat won’t go on.