Do You Know How Fortunate You Are?

My book, SLYVIE DENIED, is set in the 1970s when vast tracts of land across the US were off the grid, with few or no electric or telephone wires and no plumbing. My main characters, Sylvie and Enzo, find themselves living off the grid in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California, an area that attracted young people from cities, inspired by the back-to-the-land movement. A visitor from Italy tells Sylvie and Enzo that no one in Europe had lived in such primitive conditions for five hundred years.

Interesting factoid: Many off-grid dwellers were Vietnam War vets, known as “trip-wire” vets, who lived primitively, trapping and hunting and sleeping in caves and hollowed-out tree stumps and avoiding human contact. Their condition would later be termed PTSD.

Off-grid etiquette demanded not to ask where you’d been or why you were there and to presume it was for the natural beauty and peace and freedom from the mainstream rat race.

Although it’s not the aspiration of most people to live in less than comfortable conditions, it’s worth remembering that a recent calculation found 1.6 million living without indoor plumbing in the US (many of them on Reservations). Worldwide, that number is 2 billion.

So, during this year of the pandemic, sheltering in place, western wildfires creating the worst air pollution ever, the senseless beating of protestors and killing of innocent people of color, be thankful if you still have indoor plumbing. Besides, living in the wild does have its charms.