greg and i have each done various stints in our twenties where we were living life, in varying degrees, off the grid. as in: no running water, no electricity, outhouses and the like. usually, though, if we were lacking one thing, like solid walls, we would have another, like an ATV and enough fuel in giant containers sitting on an old landing strip to enable us to propel ourselves out onto a five mile long spit of land, chasing the tides, all day. we like to daydream about this kind of life and hash out various ways to get back to that living some day.
i’ve been thinking a lot lately about living life “off the grid”. it struck me the other day, as i happened to be sipping on my second cup of coffee of the morning, sitting cross-legged on the floor playing farm with ruth, and i glanced up at the mantel clock to see that it was noon, that i might already be living the dream in an odd way. i thought to myself, “hmm. i’d better get ruth and joel out of their pajamas.” then, i thought the better of it and just finished my coffee. i can do that. because no one’s watching. matter of fact, no one is keeping track of anything i do. i don’t punch in or out, have a timed lunch or dress code and rarely look to check the time (except in terms of “when the hell is greg getting home??” then, i’m checking the clock like a mofo). i don’t attend meetings, unless you count the kind with pretend tea and a passel of stuffed animals and half naked dolls. we rarely accomplish much at these meetings and always eat way too many pretend cookies.
i still use water. you need a lot of water to keep two kids from smelling like sewage, keep the constant flow of dirty dishes and laundry under control. i still use electricity. we listen to the radio a lot. sometimes ruth will watch movies on our computer, or kids songs on youtube. we use a fridge to keep our food cold and a microwave to warm it up, a stove, washer and dryer, various lamps. we have solid walls, with insulation. and even a furnace to heat up our living space, central air to keep us cool. but, in many ways, i am living off the grid.
it’s not unusual that i will be in an outfit i have worn for about the fifth day in a row, caked with dried finger paint, hair thrown up into a messy bun, walking slowly, just taking in the morning with joel in the stroller and ruth by my side, the constant commentator, passing by people in suits flooring it out of their driveways, checking watches, making phone calls, smoothing hair, touching up makeup (it’s been ages since i’ve even so much as brushed on a bit of mascara), past schools where busloads of children scamper into the building, toting backpacks, checking schedules, trying to remember where their locker is. they seem to mill about me like so many busy bees, always humming. i see them, but am separate from them. “ruth, look at that rock,” i might say, and leisurely bend down to examine it, “let’s take it home and show it to dad later.” she might concur and place it into the stroller or my pocket, or she might reject it, turn up her nose at it, in search of better booty. just an example of our daily itinerary around here.
we like to go to the park. “let’s have a picnic,” i’ll say and pack us a plethora and a blanket and head off…oh, whenever we get around to it. ruth often dabbles in swings, then she might find a counter somewhere and become a seller of many foodstuffs, of which it is my duty to help her think up and then order, at least one of each, more likely two (one for joel), and then pay by credit card, which is often a wood chip or a stick and which she takes from me with a barely concealed smirk of excitement and swipes through at least a dozen different crevices in the play structure overhead, before she returns it back and asks, “what else do you wanna buy?” these encounters keep us both busy. me eating and paying, mountains and mountains of ice cream, french fries, salads of all textures, root beer floats and hard boiled eggs and hundreds of dollars doled out for this excellent homemade cuisine. and her cooking and preparing, and then swiping the card like a mad woman up and down and sideways. it can be quite exhausting. we might decide to eat our picnic. find a shady spot, spread out our blanket, sing, who knows? i’ve been known to bust out in random tune now and again. think the sound of music stuff here. minus guitar. minus cute matching home-sewn outfits. but, c’mon. i could clearly pass for julie andrews. practically twins. ruth usually nibbles this and that and runs down the hill, enjoying a bit of freedom, space, and quiet. we might feed the ducks. we might not. people come and go, but still we stay. the sun shifts in the sky and we have no idea what time it is (because my phone is broken) and we don’t mind. joel might get fussy. ruth might get tired and hot. then, we pack up our car and go on back home.
usually when greg finally does come home, he asks, “what did you do today?” and ruth and i look at each other, each at a loss as to how to account for our time. we don’t know. we have little to show for our hours of lackadaisical living. no memos sent out, no large projects tweaked with final touches, no events planned and prepped for. i could consult our secretary but no one takes the minutes. it’s just us. living life in slow motion. off the grid. in this house that is very much connected to the grid, in this neighborhood where people are constantly coming and going and being productive, just a few houses down from greenfield where people can’t seem to get to their next destination fast enough.
we just let it all go by and concentrate on the really important issues at hand: should we read a book or play dress up?