Notes from Off the Grid – a poem

A gentle life

Angela Long is a poet and writer who has lived off the grid for the past three years. Visit her blog.

“I wrote Notes from Off the Grid here, last summer, in the cabin where I’m sitting right now. We live in an area of Naikoon Provincial Park that’s off-the-grid. There aren’t many of us here–about a dozen others officially off-grid. We’re not an intentional community–just a bunch of people who ended up out here (some have been here since the 70s), who like this lifestyle (and living in a forest along a magnificent beach). There’s a wind turbine on the property where I live that provides enough power to fuel my laptop, internet connection, and a few other low-voltage luxuries.”

Notes from Off the Grid

i.) The road

First there’s a sign:

Proceed with Caution: Narrow, Winding Road.

Then there’s a line to cross,

where tarmac turns to gravel,

where electrical poles stop and cedars

creep back to the edge.

The forest thickens. On bare branches

moss grows in mufflers,

hangs in gossamer veils.

Tamped pathways rusty with leaf mulch

all lead towards the Pacific.

There are cabins here,

built from driftwood and salvaged glass.

There are people who chop wood,

collect rainwater in barrels.

They light candles or propane lanterns,

tune to CBC on battery-operated radio.

Or they listen to silence.

ii.) Silence

It has a sound, a fullness.

It’s heavy with sigh of tree,

and space between breath.

It’s ripe with pause between birdsong

and crash of surf.

It’s golden, they say.

But no one tells us it’s addictive.

My ear seeks it as a musician’s

seeks a Bach Partita or an Ellington Suite.

I crave its harmonious overtures,

and well-timed rests.

Crunch of foot on leaves. Knock

on wooden door. Creak of rusty hinge.

Steaming kettle and clanking teacup,

rat-a-tat-tat of conversation.

This is why, I think,

all the while holding up my end of the conversation,

this is why people become hermits.

iii.) Conversation

It’s about firewood¾too wet, too knotty.

About driving past Rose Spit,

all the way to East Beach,

chainsaw ready for bucking

logs washed up from the world.

Yellow cedar, mahogany, even yew.

It’s about storm reports from Thailand,

catching waves that have travelled

thousands of miles.

It’s about huckleberries

ready to pick, salal berries ripening soon,

about staying up all night canning Coho,

or glasswort, or bottling elderflower wine.

It’s about the price of gas, the size

of engines, the durability of tires

(on these roads). It’s about freight charges

and air mail, about Okanagan peaches

five times the price.

It’s about Sarah

pregnant for the first time,

Juliana for the third.

About how everyone

seems to be having babies.

“There’s something in the water,” they warn.

iv.) Water

We collect it in rain barrels,

two, blue plastic, 84-litre garbage pails.

It hits cedar shingles,

drips into a trough,

runs its thin, steady stream.

It’s the colour of pale urine.

They say it softens skin, brightens eyes.

We boil it, drink Earl Grey,

Rooibos, Apple Cinnamon.

We bathe in a basin

just big enough to crouch.

We wash each other’s backs,

feel it trickle down our spines,

penetrate membranes.

We feel it seep into those parts of ourselves

we never knew existed.

It’s as though we have roots,

always thirsty,

always reaching for the trees.

v.) Trees

I’m sure it’s been noted before,

how when the sky is grey

they’re greener than usual.

Totem poles, bark baskets,

homestead fence posts, fighter planes.

Everything’s written in their rings.

I’ve heard they’re sentient and scream when cut.

I’ve been told to lean into bark grooves to heal myself.

I’ve been watching them,

trunks as solid as rock, wider

than my embrace.

I’ve watched them bend

like grass blades in the wind,

like dancers warming up.

I’ve been watching the dead ones,

noted how ferns sprout from their innards,

how saplings take root

where their hearts must have been.

vi.) Logs

We’re surrounded by eighty of them,

roughly hewn. Knots, burls, grooves,

bark as mottled as aged skin,

the colour of fine ash, of sand,

of dulled silver.

I’ve noted when the sky darkens,

and the fire burns strong,

they transform.

They glow with the embers,

a burnished gold, a bloody red.

They glow as though something in the cambium

has been waiting for this moment,

for this night.

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the global off-grid community

Register for a better experiencE on this site!

Available for Amazon Prime