Oh, my, the days have been gray around here lately. So gray. This morning, after chores and breakfast I sat down for a precious moment at my spinning wheel and I’m certain the already very gray light coming in the windows got even grayer. I mean, I am pretty aware of the fact that a visit to the eye-doctor is probably in my near future, but my eyesight isn’t that bad. I practically needed to turn on a light just to be able to see what I was doing at the wheel. It was probably ten in the morning… not typically the darkest hour of the day!
So, the days have been gray. And since we are drawing near the winter solstice, the nights have been long. If you read between the lines here, you might gather that sunshine is at a premium. Remember also that I live in a solar-powered house. When the sun doesn’t shine, there is no power. So our solar system is getting the double whammy of 1) no sunshine, and 2) more power usage because the daylight is less and we are therefore using lights for more hours each day.
Over the weekend, our solar system’s battery bank was about to crash. Knowing that precious little sunshine was expected in our forecast, Eric made the move of hauling our batteries over to our neighbor’s shop building where there is grid-tied electricity and where we happen to have a battery charger. (Let me just say that It is no small feat lugging the eight seventy-five pound batteries from their moorings in the bench on our front porch, down the steps, into the back of the mini-van, and out our very long and rough driveway, out of the mini-van and into the shop, and then to reverse these steps to get the batteries back home.) In order to get any charge on the batteries at all, they needed to stay on the charger for at least 24 hours. That left my family completely in the dark for one evening. Eric and I lived for years without any electricity at all, but now that we have it, we’ve gotten kind of used to it. We still don’t use very much power, but damn, an 8 watt light bulb is an amazing thing. And with three busy kids who all have their own agendas, an evening in the dark could easily turn nightmare-ish.
But the evening did not leave me cursing under my breath at the frustrating inconvenience of not having any lights. The evening was lovely. Memorably lovely. We lit candles and sat close to one another on the couches reading stories with our one functioning flashlight. We talked about things and ideas and plans and re-capped what the day held for each of us. Eric and I declared that we need to be without lights more often! Even when we do have adequate power, television is not an option for my family, as we don’t have one. Sure, sometimes we allow the kids to watch a movie on the tiny dvd player that we have, but overall our evenings are never spent in front of the tv. During this precious candlelit evening, I was reminded of why I have made the choices I have made for my family. I chose to exclude television from the scene of my household. I chose to not let the flow of my brain be determined by someone else. This evening, we turned our bull, Goldie, loose with five heifers. He’s an old feller. Never in any big hurry. Incredibly calm and gentle for a creature of his size. Before today, he has never even met the young ladies we put in his paddock, other than the subtle whiffs of their scent carried on the wind. We partially unrolled a round bale of hay for Goldie and his new girlfriends, and then just stood there, leaning comfortably on the bale, taking in the sights and sounds. It was fascinating to watch the body language of the cattle. The way they would lower their heads and turn their bodies slightly sideways to appear as large as possible. The smelling. The kicking up of heels as the excitement of the new situation set in. The munching sounds of hay being chewed. The loud bellowing. This was my deep breath. This was my evening entertainment.