The Mirror Held When Power Cuts
Photo by Clare Dubois
My world changed forever this year. Turned upside down and inside out. I am grateful and horrified, humbled and agonized, amazed and surrendered, blazing and watchful.
It's solstice. The year up north is turning back towards the light. The darkness has already given me so much, and will no doubt give me so much more before the sun really holds sway again.
I want to share in case it turns a key for you.
What changed came through an unexpected source. The power cuts. The multiple power cuts that blanketed much of Northern California again and again in a bid to save us from fire this late autumn. The cuts that have caused bankruptcies, lost jobs, broken dreams, devastation for some, inconvenience for all, awakening for me - and I hope others.
We had no power for days on end, multiple times, which for us also means no water. So the so called modern conveniences of washing dishes, cooking, bathing, toilet usage, etc along with the taken for granted WiFi, fridge and flicked on switches of everything suddenly stopped. Yes, we still had the massive convenience of a roof over our heads, beds to sleep in and the forests (at least here) were mostly not on fire, but my god it was 'inconvenient'.
My moment to moment, workaholic life very swiftly got ragged around the edges as I hunted for working WiFi, or calls dropped off, or I just didn't eat, or my back went out whilst using an outdoor pit for my toilet!
I got to watch my mind, my emotions and my behaviors as they finally turned the power back on, only to switch it off again a few hours later multiple times. Frantic Clare. I was an addict fair and square.
I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it. I was used to it, entitled to it, expecting it to just miraculously switch back on - because it ought to, because of course that's just how it is, because that's the job of 'the powers that be' - to maintain the conveniences we need, so that we can revel in utterly taken for granted luxury - and for what? What grand purpose warrants this massive expense to life on Earth?
I do not have solar power. As yet I couldn't afford it even if I didn't live in the forest. We cannot even choose 100% green power - ours is supplied by good old PG&E of Erin Brockovich fame. The “ignore-life-we-just-have-to-get-rich” PG&E who won't bury power lines because it's too costly but will cost California billions of lost earnings due to these cuts to keep us safe and to highlight our dependency. Yikes. So our power is not green, not clever and not healthy. It's a monopoly. It's 'how it is'.
But as I watched my angst, my stress levels and my thought processes during the cuts, a deeper distress surfaced.
I was waiting to be rescued. I was waiting for normality to be restored as if I deserved it.
Photo by Clare Dubois
What was I deserving?
Power that hurts Gaia. Privilege that hurts Gaia. Every generator holding normality together for those that had them, was hurting Gaia.
Suddenly I was staring more nakedly than ever before into the truth of the fact that all the daily actions I take, from turning on the tap, flicking switches, listening to music, cooling my food etc. all hurt Gaia. And I want all those things. What I want, hurts Gaia. My mother. What I do, hurts Gaia. The one I love beyond words.
The internet I use, the kettle I boil, the calls I make - everything I do to keep my crazy life going (never mind the flights I still take) requires endless power supply - all of which hurts and takes from Gaia.
And yes, I know green power exists (I'd always had that before moving here) and we can live more simply and sustainably - which Mark and I do in many ways - but it's yanked open extreme awareness of the meta level of our cultural entitlements, blindness and assumptions - it's shown me to me, and us to me, and I'm blinking in shock all over again.
What have we done to deserve the privilege we have? How often have we asked for the things we've taken from Gaia, and how often have we said thank you? How often do we have any concept of the damages done to create and then place that thing in our hands? How often is it then wasted or thrown away without so much as a backwards glance?
I have been building an organization and movement grounded in reciprocity with nature for 8 years now - but only in the last two months have I really, fully experienced the roaring imbalance that still exists in my own life, even though there's 7 million trees in the world that wouldn't be here were it not for TreeSisters.
Suddenly, everything I use is Gaia. When I listen to music, I know I'm taking from Her. When I'm showering, driving, cooking - it's with Her in mind. One of the many reasons I married Mark was because I knew he already experienced this, which is why he cannot waste a thing and why there is no such thing as convenience for him. Suddenly, finally, there is no such thing as convenience for me either - and yet it's woven into every day life like a constant companion.
Everything we throw away - we are throwing away Gaia.
Christmas - the time of throwing away Gaia. It hurts so much it actually makes me feel mad.
And - it has made everything sacred. Everything. Not just conceptually. Really in my body. Sacred to the point that I am constantly in awe and gratitude. Constantly.
Tonight has been weird. I've spent the evening trying to feel worthy of the privilege that I have. This home we rent, even though 95% of our furniture is second hand, it suddenly feels too much. How do we have so much stuff?
I practically bowed to the washing machine that I would hate to live without today. It's Gaia. As we strung up our clothes lines across the sitting room to dry by the fire, I'm staring at my clothes. They're all Gaia.
It's like a veil has fallen.
Normalcy is abnormal. Our privilege is a stolen gift, taken without gratitude or awareness and for what? What do we do with our privilege whilst it causes our world to burn and species billions of years in creation, to vanish for ever in their hundreds every week, or every day?
What do we do with our privilege? Except expect it to be afforded to us indefinitely, even though we live on a finite planet that has almost lost the capacity to hold herself together.
When I think of how much I love this world and how hard I work for her, and then still, I feel that insidious addiction to energy consumption quietly humming through my veins...I have flicked on switches and bawled my eyes out.
Photo by Clare Dubois
When I look at the every day human still struggling to even wake up to climate change, completely entranced by the collective momentum of normalized consumption and blind to the realities of power cuts, food and water shortages literally storming towards us like an empty freight train....
When I sit here wondering if I deserve this roof over my head and this newly dried linen I'm about to sleep in, I have no answer for myself. I just find silence. Silence and gratitude.
- I have these things.
- At least now that the rain is here, we're not about to burn down, and I watch the horrors in Australia with deepest empathy.
- Now that I am seeing Gaia's face in everything, how am I going to let that further change me? And if you've got this far reading, how can you let it change you?
- How is this level of gratitude going to increase my experience of both presence and gratitude?
Totally I hope.
For now I just needed to write this down and blow it onto the global breeze with love. I am so full of open ended questions right now - I just wanted them to have the chance to touch a few others as well as the great swing happens and the north takes Her longest, deepest, darkest breath before swinging back to the light....
May you further awaken to the miracle of your privilege, and may you find yet more ways to be worthy of it.
Take not one thing for granted. It is not here to stay. Be in awe of all you have, then find ways to start giving back.
By Clare Dubois
Clare Dubois, founder of TreeSisters is an Earth loving social entrepreneur and inspirational speaker who worked internationally for 18 years facilitating groups, coaching business leaders and creating behaviour change processes within the personal growth sector. Clare is leading the TreeSisters campaign; focusing on network development and the empowerment of women. She has been developing the ethos and principles, the team and organisational culture, the campaign strategy, the framework of the Maps and behaviour change materials. She is committed to the creation of an evolving system that learns as it goes and continually models itself upon the flows and forms of living systems.