This world. This place. This life.

What can you do without?


Macina limoni

Life is different in McCarthy, Alaska.  Spend just a week there, and you start thinking differently about the magic of water, electricity and plumbing.

Each morning when we stumbled into the old hardware store that is the Wrangell Mountains Center, most of the Wild Comfort writers were looking for one thing: coffee.

If you got there early enough, you caught a glimpse behind the curtain. You saw the work that went into the elixir fueling your energy at 8:00 a.m. writing circle.

There were fifteen participants in the writing workshop, three leaders, and assorted staff. Not everyone was a coffee drinker, granted, but still, that’s a lot of coffee.  Particularly when it was available from 7:30-10:00 a.m.

Particularly since every swallow of that coffee came from beans ground by hand.

My eyes went wide that first morning, when I saw the kitchen staff grinding those beans, their arms swinging in rhythmic arcs, getting more upper body exercise in a single morning than I get in a year.

Seeing their efforts made our morning coffee even more precious.

On my last trip to the grocery store––back here in the “civilized” world––I bought whole bean coffee rather than ground. There’s something about living in Alaska that makes us coffee drinkers crave the good stuff.

I pulled my Kitchen Aid coffee grinder out of storage, and started teaching myself the right grind, and the right ratios.

Maybe it was my time in McCarthy. Maybe it was the major power outages we’ve had on both coasts lately. I started to think about non-electric options––a French press, maybe a manual grinder.

Every time we have a power outage here in Girdwood––and with our weather, they happen quite frequently––I notice how many electrical devices I depend on. In McCarthy, I had a taste life that depends more on human effort. I liked it. It felt more, well, alive.

Maybe a power outage is a wake-up call. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of saying, “What are you going to do when the power goes off for good? What are you going to do if we don’t get renewable energy before fossil fuels run out? How are you going to get your coffee then?”

(Photo by Trellina.  Used under Creative Commons license.)


3 thoughts on “What can you do without?

  1. There’s a definite satisfaction in knowing you can take care of yourself and your loved ones no matter what THINGS you have. We have one of those old coffee grinders at our cabin, too. It belonged to my grandparents, and my Dad remembers them grinding coffee and other stuff with it. At one point, though, Grandpa added a motor–I guess they got tired of using elbow grease!

    • The one they had in McCarthy was different than the one pictured above–a vertical motion rather than horizontal, if that makes sense. One of my good friends often reminds me, though she shares my perspectives, not to romanticize the past. It was hard work–and most of us would have had little time left for things like blogging!

  2. Pingback: Rancilio MD 40 1 lbs MD 40 Coffee Grinder |

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