Joe, the owner of the off-the-grid-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-home-I-had -just-put-an-offer-on, was walking me, fresh-out-of-LA-urban-sprawl-havent-had-to-change-my-own-oil-in-a-decade, to the solar house to get me up to speed with the house solar electrical system. Up a short flight of concrete steps to a small grey shed set at the topmost ridge of the hill. Next to it was the single array of solar panels set on a tracking system. This system caused the panels to follow the path of the sun across the sky like the expectant face of a black square sunflower.
He unlocked the door of the shed, the door swung open with a breezy force that equaled the force of the fist I felt colliding with my gut. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but in this shack, this grey wooden tardis, this rabbit hole dug into the roof of Wonderland, I hit the limits of my understanding of the laws of physics. Wires, endless wires, some thicker than my thumb, arrays of batteries, electric boxes in rows each humming and blinking lights, control boxes (boxeS, there was more than ONE) each measuring clicking and making decisions, fuses pumps, and shelving of replacement and outdated parts.
The next hour was a blur, I feverously writing notes, asking questions, uncertain of their relevance “Float, what’s a float?” “Why do I need an inverter?” “If the batteries run dry… can they be jump-started?” (the answer is yes, Ill describe jump starting my house later). I understood nothing. Not a thing. I just wrote it all down hoping the facts would all make sense later… but how much later? Before we paid money for this… THIS. Whatever THIS was? All the wile with the same empty ache in my stomach I felt when the door had opened, that, and a fluttering feeling in my shoulders.
The empty ache I had felt once before. It was the week before my first professional teaching job at a private High School. The Principal was showing me the art room, she had indicated a shelf of art textbooks and said “This is all we got for textbooks.”
I responded “Thats fine, can I take one of these home to review the content?”
She looked at me quizzically: “These textbooks are yours. This whole room is yours. You can do whatever you want with them.”
Then I had felt the punch, and the ache. I was now the “Man”. I was now the “Man-got-me-down”. From here on out, the success or failure of the would venture was only on me. The buck stops here, and here was in my shoes.
Then it had been about making a classroom for human beings in a crucial time of life. Now, it would be my family. If the power went out, there was no one else to call to demand proper service. If a piece of equipment blew, no one else to blame. If I wanted power, If I wanted light for my child’s nightlight, I had to make sure the equipment was running smoothly so it would happen.
The ache said, “RUN! You are not up for this! You don’t know what the hell you are doing!”
The flutter in the shoulders I had felt too. I had felt it that same High School day, it said “There is one way, and that’s the way you have chosen. Forward.”