Thursday, November 23, 2006

An Inconvenient Booth

So I've got an outhouse.

No, it isn't the one pictured here. It is one of those new-fangled deals made of plastic that has locks and such. You know, the sort used by folks with city ways, what with all their fancy book learnin' and shoes and the like. We've had more than our fair-share of rain this month and one particular day was bountiful in ways we've not seen in years. Not only did our cup runeth over, but our ceptic system did as well. The plumber snaked his pipe cleaner down twenty-five feet and found nothing but clean water. He wrinkled his youthful brow, scratched his head and gave me a sympathetic look as he handed me the bill. When it comes to toilet-related decisions, time is most certainly of the essence. I ordered a porta-potty for the back yard until we could figure out what our next step would be. My hope is that the water will drain out and I'll be able to deal with this in a more comprehensive way in the summer. Alas, I fear I may not have the luxury of time.

Speaking of luxury, as outhouses go, this one isn't too bad. There is this delightful blue liquid into which one does their final staging of the digestion process. Not only is it lovely to behold, but it keeps the air springtime fresh. It is not lit by anything but nature (or a flashlight) and even has a dual toilet paper roll (honestly, I'm not trying to put on airs). It isn't a long walk to access this marvel, but it is far more inconvenient than staggering half-asleep across the hall.

I guess this blog entry has some tangental relationship to Thanksgiving, but certainly not in the Hallmark Channel or Norman Rockwell sense. According to a document released at the 4th UN World Water Forum, more than 2.6 billion people do not have indoor plumbing. Sure, it is fun to roam around with a flashlight when you go camping, but it can be quite an adjustment when you must make it a part of your daily life. I guess I don't mind it so much, but it would be much easier to bear (at least my bottom would be much easier to bare) if it were May rather than November. When I make that short walk out back in the middle of a frigid and lightless evening, I remind myself of how coddled and spoiled I've been all my life. I've never been hungry or put in harms way or lacked the basic necessities of life. If this is hardship, then I think I can take more. No, I won't be a better person for this, but I will be more thankful. The word "inconvenient" stirred memories of reading casemeau's inner dialog on the subject prior to his decision to go homeless.

I wish I could use this experience to at least make myself feel I am achieving a moral victory. I wish I could say "I am saving hundreds of gallons of water per month by not flushing", but I really don't know if I am saving anything. I might even be using more resources by doing this. I've read lots of blogs from simple living communities or eco-communities that process their waste in a more earth-friendly manner. I've read about "humanure" and composting toilets. THAT is saving water. No, I can't crow about being green or earth-friendly or environmentally sensitive. All I am is desperate and compelled to use this thing. How many other people are in those sorts of situations? How many people would love to be more sensitive to the earth and leave a lighter footprint? Most people don't have the choice. Being an environmentalist or "living simply" is often a movement led by fortunate people who have so much they can afford to "lighten their load". For most of us, there isn't always room to choose whether to eat organic or free-range or locally grown. Most are just happy to eat. I'm not casting negativity towards any of those movements, ideas or people that participate in them. In fact, if you knew me in my real life, you might even laugh (I try not to take myself too seriously). But I do take seriously the often desperate situation in which many find themselves. There is no choice between organic apples and free-range eggs and their alternatives. Survival is serious business. When you don't have a pot to piss in (either literally or figuratively) you do what you can.

I like the fact that I must now be relatively mindful about my bathroom use strategy. Where I might have a cup of tea right before bed, I will likely postpone it for morning. A flashlight, shoes and appropriate outer garments must be left in an accessible location. The weather may be checked prior to turning in for the night. Toilet paper stocks must be checked frequently to prevent what would certainly be a disaster for one's self or family. On the bright side, there is now so much more about which we can speak upon returning from the loo. In the past, what would one say after the deed was done? Not much apart from, "You might want to stay out of there for a few minutes" (which I've never said but have heard on several occasions). Now I can say, "There were deer in the back yard", or "I think the turkeys are interested in our potty" or "The coyotes are on the move" or "I can see all the stars tonight" or "It is so cold... come here and warm me up".

This whole deal about being afraid of losing something by scaling back our lives... I don't know why I struggle under it. No, I really don't want to use the bathroom this way for the rest of my life, but I know there are far worse things that could befall me. Maybe this is what I need to start slowing down? A little inconvenience isn't that bad. I wish it wouldn't cost me so much money to figure these things out. I'm coming to terms with the wood stove. I'm sure I could deal with water pumped by hand or by bicycle. I probably could live with the outdoor potty thing. One by one, my imagined fears of what the simple life holds are being... flushed away. I just wish there were not so many of them and that I had more time to watch them swirl down the bowl.

Speaking of which, I hope you'll all excuse me, but I have a pressing matter to which I must attend.


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