Monday, 4 November 2013

What is the grid anyway

A really interesting article popped up on facebook this afternoon - have a read of it:

It resonated with me for lots of reasons - the reasons why we live here, the reasons why it's sometimes tough, the reasons why we chose to stay and I suppose, if we were ever to make that decision the reason why we might one day leave.

We're not leaving. Just to clarify. But we do check, just between the four of us, at least once a week that we are all happy with this life. That might seem a little extreme but our lives are a little extreme and we need to be sure that just as the article talks about we are here through choice, because we are in love rather than because we are bloody minded. We certainly don't choose this life each time we re-examine because it is easy, because doing something different might be a tricky choice and hard work to make happen - oh no!

I've been thinking about the ways in which I am confident that we will not eventually conclude as the author of that article did that our time here is done. And I think it is because we have already done a lot of the transition stuff that we needed to process in order to not struggle with life here. I am watching several new Rum residents find their feet just now and prepare for their first winter, come to terms with last minute ferry timetable changes, lack of fresh milk, fruit and vegetables when deliveries don't come, the realisation that a trip to the hairdressers will mean at least two nights off island (and the associated expense of travel and accommodation). Meanwhile I feel like an old hand, even though really I am still very new myself but at least this winter we know what to expect, we did invest those hours of our days back in August and September lugging wood up the hill and chopping it ready to burn, we now celebrate the wind coming and whizzing the turbine round rather than dreading the weather forecast.

The article speaks about how going off grid in terms of power and hooked-up-ness is not actually the challenge - it is the isolatedness of being without people and just being too damn far away from things that gets you in the end. I can relate to that. I have a nephew I have never met, at least two friends who's new houses I have not seen, parents I miss at least once a week to the tune of shedding a tear (painting that freezer with gloss paint had me welling up every time because the smell of paint and brush cleaner takes me right back to being 9 and driven to school in the back of my Dad's van squished in with the paints and turps), I miss spending time with anyone, anyone who has known me for more than 18 months or as anything other than Nic who has a croft and lives in a caravan, no one on Rum has any real frame of reference for who I am other than who I am today, right here, right now.  

Rum is not like a commune - for many reasons. We are not all living here sharing one common goal or vision, we are not all chasing the same dream, here for the same reasons or necessarily working to the same agenda. Instead we are a micro society - we have many of the same replicated issues, politics and dysfunctional qualities of society at large. We are an interesting demographic with some fascinating characters - not least me and my family! But we are a community in the truest sense of the word. We share highdays and holidays and celebrations. We live each others passions, fears, victories and failures. When a card goes around to mark the birthday of someone, the birth of a new baby, the commiseration of someone falling ill it is signed by everyone. Quirks, foibles and flaws aside this is the closest I have ever lived with other people and it is this very connectedness to 'the grid' which makes me feel we might just make it.

Water, power, sorting out what to do with our waste and eventually even growing and rearing our food are all things we can strive towards self sufficiency in and maybe one day even achieve. Meeting our social needs is something we will never manage just the four of us. Wings will need to be stretched, hearts broken, connections made, horizons broadened and ideas challenged - we humans are social animals and while we are a tight knit little family who enjoy each others company there are needs we simply cannot meet within ourselves. As with everything in our lives I am not intending to go down the conventional route to finding ways to meet these needs. School is not the only way to educate, TV not the only route to entertainment, suburban living and hustle bustle not the only way to socialise. Instead we will start to explore other options for finding ways to broaden social circles. I have some ideas - some involve bringing people here, others involve sending one, two, three or four of us off to find off island opportunities. As a Home Educator of many years one of my greatest skills is seeking out, finding and exploiting opportunities.

So for now maybe I'll settle less for off grid and more for slightly to one side of it.

1 comment:

  1. Silly question (and slightly belated, sorry, catching up!). But instead of individual islanders/families going off island to access eg hairdressers, is it not possible for some of those services to come to the island as a mobile unit, every once in a while? Obviously harder for some things (dentists) than others (hairdressers) - although in some parts of the world, travelling clinics are the only way certain communities can access services. Seems odd that there isn't more of a tradition of it on the islands.