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26 February 2012 | Category: Stories | Author: Clare

Finishing the wiring for electricity at the cabin was a defining moment.

Despite not being hooked into the grid, it felt like a cobweb of infrastructure akin to a national highway system. Spidering around the cabin, connecting this to that, and transporting the lifeblood of so many things; facilitating an element of civilisation that had often seemed so remote, as to be almost impossible.

But that was electricity.

Propane is so different.

There is a curiosity about delivering gas to various appliances using hollow, soft copper pipe.

Perhaps because we live in a wireless, digital world. The simplicity of it seems almost out of place, like vacuum tubes, the pre-cursor to e-mail; even in a cabin in the woods.

The copper initially seems almost endearing, easy enough to bend, and work with; cute somehow in it's simplicity and function. A vehicle for transport, in the most unsophisticated way. Running from the tank to the cabin, to the regulator, to the appliances.


The story however is not complete without some commentary devoted to the absolutely hellish task of flaring copper pipe.

Like squirrels who 'accidentally' drop things on you as you wander below; the copper pipe lies inert in your lap, almost bending before your eyes to prove it is in fact easy to work with.

I lost count of how many times my temper flared more than the bloody pipe.

The flaring tool half destroyed, black eyes, bruises on legs and knees; constantly bracing against the 1/2" devil pipe, masquerading as innocent, affable copper.

There is a temptation to scrub it, suspicious that under that bonnie sheen there must lie an iron core, sneering at your vain attempts to change it's mind; somehow explaining your own inadequacies.

The fear of gas leaks forces you to be meticulous. Flaring, re-flaring, forgetting the flare nuts and almost shooting yourself in frustration!

The profanity drifting out from below the cabin was enough to keep visitors away, and almost rendered the project a half finished dream; too tedious to bear in the heart of winter.

Still, writing this by the ambient glow of one of the 6 propane lights in the cabin (almost) makes the efforts worthwhile.

The real reward is the refrigerator that stands guardian now over my food intake and beer consumption. Like a parent that makes you sit at the table till you have eaten the crusts you thought might kill you before you ingested them, the fridge gives voice to my guilty conscience.

There are no excuses now; no more fast food on the way home, justified as ordinary groceries will go through the freeze/sweat cycle in the cabin, then become dog, or garbage fodder.

Now I dutifully pack in lettuce, vegetables, cheese, meat, and even milk. All arranged in the fridge with a sense of deference. Even having drilled the holes, laid the pipe, flared the bloody pipe, and hooked up the appliances, there is this wonder at how it all works; and just how huge the impact of these conveniences can be on your life.

For someone who deliberately chooses to live a more challenging lifestyle, it seems an odd paradox to appreciate these things, or even accept them as part of the tapestry.

I suppose we all have our limits; or perhaps I lose sight of the original intention?

I think the motive was not necessarily to live with difficulty, but to embrace learning how to provide for yourself; to educate yourself and not give in to the temptation to have someone who has that knowledge rescue you.

Perhaps difficulty and education go hand in hand; and along the way, you forget which was the original motivation.

I can say without hesitation, it is wonderful to reach up and turn out the light.

Not having to struggle down the ladder (trying to stay half asleep), shove your feet into slippers, and venture out to turn the generator off.

I wonder a little at myself as the cabin progresses.

Am I going to forget appreciation again?

I am a little scared of giving up that deep sense of gratitude for the little things.

Perhaps we have to build, and re-build our whole lives, so as not to lose ourselves, or the things that are important to us.

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