Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
The days are rapidly shortening, and the cold gradually getting colder. Snow and rain exchange places and an autumnal mud season begins. With this shifting of the year, the urgency of outdoor work is diminishing. The garden is largely done, with only kale, broccoli, and a few petite brussel sprouts holding on through the falling temperatures. Our wood is split, stacked, and under cover, a decent pile that will take us through next summer and into autumn. While wood is an ongoing task, we can relax in our pursuit of firewood for a few months. We do have a new trail through the woods from the property’s edge to our cabin, with finishing touches still to be done – but the heftiest work of building bridges has been completed.
As a result, we’re certainly inside more this time of year. The evenings are long, and growing longer. With the sun setting just shy of 4:30pm, we can’t quite go to bed with the sun. To prolong our days a few hours, we use an oil lamp, and headlamps as finer work necessitates.
This, predictably, draws many comments – mostly from skeptics. The prevailing opinion seems to be that our shadowy light is limiting, difficult, unpleasant, or out-and-out unlivable. While I am quite familiar with these arguments, I must state my fondness for these dusky hours of each evening. We let the shadows grow long over dinner, stretching the minutes before we light the oil lamp. Once the match is struck, a warm glow lights our table, and stretches, faintly, to the cozy corners.
Yes, it’s true, we will likely make a solar panel powered improvement in the future, if for no other reason than that Ryan wears glasses and would appreciate stronger light. But for now, I relish the dark as much as the light.
Our evenings are as simple as our lamp’s flame. As we conclude dinner, which is a slow affair with no rush beyond the strength of our appetites, we clean the cast iron and stack the dishes. Next is coffee, for Ryan, and hot water for me. We’ll talk of the day, or the day to come, our thoughts, our plans, the news we’ve heard and our reaction to it. Often we dwell on the challenges of modernity and the struggles of those closest to us. Our conversation easily leads to questions, and thus we turn to our shelves of books. A quest for an answer always leads to something else. Some days call for quieter evenings, and then we read – sometimes to ourselves, sometimes to each other. We sit with Mica on the couch; we laugh; we write letters.
And when we go to sleep, I imagine that it’s earlier than many. A long night’s rest is the treat of such short days. If other commitments draw me out, it’s these simple evenings that I miss. Simple, yes; personal, cozy, creative. I love these dusky hours.