Friday, February 1, 2013

30 Days Without Electric Lighting Review!

Working on projects by candle light and oil lamps.

Jill's Review:

I love our 30 day challenges so much!  I'm happy this has turned into something Joe and I share and experience together.  There is something to be said about making an effort to get out of your own way once in a while and try something different.  Something as simple as changing a habit like flipping on the light when entering a room can and did change my perspective about a lot of things.  This challenge ended up being an actual challenge!  I was really excited for it in the beginning and the thought it was going to be easy; the idea of experiencing a little bit of a primitive lifestyle sounded really fun to me too.  However, these past few days I've found myself looking forward to this challenge being over.  A lot changed for us; our sleeping patterns changed big time!  The saying, rising with the sun and going down with the sun is actually quite true!  About four or five days into this challenge I noticed I was ready for bed at 8:00 p.m. - I've always been a night owl!  I found using oil lamps and candles to work on projects after dark frustrating because shadows would cast and create darkness when I needed to see.  I was able to paint five shelves and a table using lamps and candles, but the rest of my painting projects are anxiously waiting for the lights to come back on. . .  We gave in to early bed times which made for wonderful mornings!  I've enjoyed waking up refreshed and ready for the day.  Because of our new sleeping pattern I felt it was important to use day light wisely!  I prioritized my time and tasks much better these past 30 days and was able to accomplish more things during the day!

The best part about our 30 day challenges are all the questions and critiques from acquaintances and friends.  No really, I welcome the questions and comments.  People would ask if we used our laptops or TV and tell us we shouldn't because they give off light!  The goal of this challenge wasn't to sit in darkness for 30 days; as I mentioned before, our challenges are about changing habits and experiences something new.  We didn't set up our laptops as a source of illumination either.  Have you ever sat in a dark room with just your laptop on your lap and look out into the room from where you're sitting?  Trust me, all you see is darkness!  I've learned through these challenges something that everyone should learn in life; you never really know until you experience something for yourself.  I also have a theory about our current hectic lifestyles.  I hear often that our culture has changed because we live in a digital world; we have tablets and cell phones and computers, and laptops in almost every room of a household now days.  We can work on projects, homework, watch the last season of Dr. Who and chat with our friends all at the same time!  I believe this crazy hectic lifestyle changed long before the digital life we live in now:  I believe everything changed when electric lights became available for the masses!  I believe this because when I get home from work and go through the list of everything else I have to get done at home before bed - no wait - before I lose daylight, (and this list had nothing to do with using a digital device) I couldn't get it all done.  Light my friends, affects our lives more than you know.        

Joe's Review:

I don't think I have a lot to add to what Jill wrote:  She described the experience quite succinctly.  I think the only difference in our experiences was that I enjoyed this challenge from beginning to end, and didn't find it much of a struggle, though she is right that we were hardly productive at all after nightfall, and that was rather frustrating.  We chose the hardest time of the year to do this challenge, which was on purpose, but it ended up even harder than we expected:  Our initial idea was to do this during the shortest days of the year, in order to make it a real challenge.  What we didn't count on was a nearly unprecedented stretch of inversion.  For those of you who are not familiar with the weather patterns of Northern Utah, the inversion is when cold air is trapped in the valleys by a higher layer of warm air, resulting in thick fog (or smog if you have the misfortune of living in one of the metropolitan areas).  This past month was one nearly unbroken fog bank, at times so dense that we could hardly see across our yard.  So not only did we have to ward off the long winter nights with our lamps and candles, but the days were hardly any reprieve either.  I must admit that we both groaned a bit at the fact that today, the first day back with electric lights, the sun chose to blaze quite brightly without a hint of fog to obscure it.

I was surprised at how quickly our bodies shifted to the natural rhythm of the sun.  In fact, I noticed a difference the very first day - I was tired and ready for bed just an hour or two after sundown.  Our children are all night-owls, but they too reacted to the lack of light, and didn't complain at all when we would send them to bed at 8:30 or 9:00.  (I am thinking of making this the norm for the weekends they are with us!)  Getting up early in the morning was not any easier - it may have even been a bit harder - but once we were awake, we were wide awake, without the desire to crawl back into bed if we had the chance.  We also adjusted to operating with lower levels of light.  Waking up before sunrise and going out to take care of the animals or shovel snow or just get ready for work, I realized that I was able to do most of my chores in near complete darkness.  I quickly learned to trust my sense of touch, and I also learned that just a small amount of ambient light is more than enough for many of our daily tasks.

Some of our thirty-day challenges don't affect the people around us at all, but this one did.  Now we weren't insanely uptight about it - we didn't turn off all the lights at work and force our coworkers to labor by candle light - but at night, in our home, others noticed the difference:  Life goes on, in spite of our challenges.  Our kids, for one, loved the idea, and enjoyed using flashlights to get around.  (Macsen said he didn't want a flashlight:  He would be fine using a candle, but we decided that was going beyond the realm of cool and fun into the realm of foolhardy and just plain stupid).  We purchased a piano this last week, and I am quite sure that our neighbors who helped us move it into the house at about 9:00 at night thought we were a bit odd for doing it by lamp-light.  And as Jill mentioned, people did ask us quite a few questions about our self-imposed limitations.  But overall, the response I heard was on the order of "That is so cool!  You guys try the neatest things."

Apart from our bodies adjusting to the natural circadian rhythms of the sun (and learning a new word: "zeitgeber"- an external influence that affects the body's sense of time), the biggest surprise for me was how soothing I found living by lamp-light to be.  Yes, some things like shaving or art-making became difficult, but the actual kind of light produced by oil lamps and candles was very pleasant.  We now plan on using lamp-light regularly as a way to wind down at the end of the day, as it is a perfect segue from the bustle of the day to the hours of rest and sleep.

Joe carving!

I bought this chandelier several years and finally used it during our challenge!