Sunday, August 19, 2012

Off the Grid

We spent a couple of days this summer completely off the “grid”. No power, no running water, no sewer, and no cell service. Our lives are so tied into and around having these “essential” services, that it takes a while to acclimatize to not having power at the flick of a switch or hot water at the turn of a tap.

My sister and her husband built a beautiful “cottage” on a lot overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and invited us to use it. It isn’t really isolated, but when planning turned up protected wetlands, and situating sewage and water proved a problem, they decided to build anyway but go completely “off the grid”.

Water isn’t a real problem, since you can carry it in with you, but carrying out the resulting waste is not a pleasant option, so they quickly found the solution in a composting toilet - better that the traditional outhouse, but still requiring no power or water.

Once you settle into the cottage, life without all the ’essentials’ is actually pretty good. The toilet works great; no smell, and really easy to use and manage. Oil lamps chase away the shadows, and rechargeable lights and battery power work just fine - but there is always the option of just going to bed earlier as the sun goes down, and getting up when it gets light. Once you have no real option, this seems pretty logical. Water for drinking can be carried in, and two big rain barrels provide water for washing and cooking. Probably the biggest issue is with hot water; dishes come cleaner in hot water, and I really don’t enjoy washing in cold water.

There are some advantages too. It is really dark without electricity, and looking to the heavens shows a sky full of stars hidden from our urban neighborhoods, and having to wait to wash the supper dishes until the wash water is hot allows one to relax with another glass of wine while your meal digests. You just have to slow down a bit, and that really isn’t such a bad thing. I will certainly be willing to go back for another visit.

Beach Marbles

Lots of Beach Rocks

Why is it almost impossible to find a perfectly round rock? There are lots of ’rounded’ rocks, and you can find rocks that are perfectly round but flat, but try to find just one that is a perfect sphere; almost impossible.

I call it the search for the perfect beach marble. It is very hard to find a round rock, even harder to find ones  the size of a marble. Why is that?

Someone once told me that the odds of finding a rock on a beach that had actually been worn into a perfect sphere was virtually impossible. He claimed that it would have had to start out close to a perfect cube so that as it was washed and rolled about by the waves and water the corners would slowly get worn down until it was round.

Whenever I visit a rocky beach, I search for my perfect beach marble. I haven’t found one yet. I have a few almost round beach rocks, but not one actually round, and nothing marble sized.

My theory? There are actually lots of round rocks. The continual motion of the waves works to round all rocks to perfect spheres. It is just that as soon as a rock becomes an exact round shape, the ’roundness’ exerts itself, and one of the guiding principles of a sphere takes over and it begins to roll. As we know, anything that rolls, naturally rolls down hill.

Almost round . . .
So . . . once the perfect beach marble achieves roundness, the motion of the waves rolls it not back and forth, but just ’forth’; always down hill. Yup, somewhere in the deepest of ocean trenches, unexplored by mankind, lie thousands of perfectly round rocks. Scattered among them are my elusive ’beach marbles’.

But, the search continues. One day I will come across a rock just as it loses that bit that kept it from being truly round but before it begins it’s journey down.