After years of drought and an El Nino year last year when ocean temperatures were so warm that a wall of heat prevented expected rains from reaching California, we have been blessed with water this year. The whole land is sighing and softening, with lush green weeds falling off hillsides like freshly washed hair. After a disturbingly warm fall, it feels like a new lease on life, like we still have a chance against climate change.
But as the southern hemisphere tips toward the sun, critical pieces of the southern ice sheets are cracking under the rising temperatures. We accelerate toward a challenging time for humanity.
Last night as dusk was falling, the power in our apartment went out. Without internet, the work day was forced to end early. We had to remember how to light the stove with a match, how to cook dinner without our bright halogen kitchen lights. Our 2 year old sat in front of the darkened TV screen, demanding first his favorite TV delights (Twinkle Twinkle!), then bargaining for so-so options (basketball!) and finally trying to get us to turn the TV on by appealing to our self-interest. He suggested “TV Funny!”– which probably means some adult show that we laugh at but which he doesn’t understand—as a final resort. It took an hour of bargaining, and then some sitting in the quiet, for him to realize that the TV would not come on.
Our 8-year old had come home with a ‘get out of homework’ pass, had harbored grand dreams of building a computer server so he could play Minecraft with his friends. When the power went out, he crumpled into bed in a deep funk which did not lift until the power went on again three hours later.
My husband and I, who had been somewhat frantically calling representatives to try to get more ‘no’ votes on Betsy DeVos realized that If we kept going, our phone batteries would run out before the power came back on. There was no radio to hear the news. The toxic gutter of information that has been seeping into our hearts and eyeballs these past weeks had been cut. I was three thousand miles away from Washington D.C., and with the power down, completely off limits—safe in my own community. Out on the street, I looked at the sky and realized how far away all of that is. Here were my neighbors, out with their dogs, smoking a cigarette, walking to get dinner. These were the people who were proximate to me. My neighbors are from all over the world, and are cordial, friendly, lovely people. I felt a great weight lift.
And it made me wonder. At the toll that our digital connectedness has taken on my family, on my children, on my presence with the people in my neighborhood. And it made me remember my own promise to anchor my activism locally. When the lights came back on, we had a serious conversation as a family about limits. We know its unrealistic (and possibly a disservice) to our children to ban their use of technology. But we need to cut it back. We know that at this moment, we can’t duck out of our activism against DJT and the Republican Congress, but that at the very least we need to stop our obsessive checking of the news and spend time with our kids. We want them to learn activism, and why we care. But we should do that in-person, and as part of our community (again, Women’s March Organizers are totally on it with their second action that calls us to “Huddle” with our communities. After our talk we rough-housed and wrestled, read a book, and went to bed happier than we’ve been in two weeks.
And I wonder if we can’t make this into a Monday Sabbath. A few hours on that first, busy, traumatic day of each week, to turn off everything. Light the stove with a match. Take down the wifi signal. Teach our kids that there is meaning in life without electricity, because if we keep going the way we’re going, surviving without it is something they may have to learn.