One of the questions people ask me again and again is to describe a day in the No Impact life. I always think it’s a funny question, because I’m so used to it now and it seems so routine. All the same, I thought I might as well answer it:
- If I get it together, I wake up before the girls when my wind-up alarm clock goes off (no electricity) and take a little quiet time to meditate. If not, I wake up with Michelle when Isabella, the two-and-a-half-year-old, makes the short, two-foot trip from her toddler bed to our bed (we live in a one bedroom). How I miss the cage…I mean, crib!
- Michelle and I contort our bodies to fit into the space allowed us. We sleep on one quarter of the bed; Frankie, during the night, progressively takes over three-quarters. When Isabella arrives and insists we don’t touch her, our share reduces by another half.
- Eventually, after noisily sucking her thumb for a while, Isabella gets up and starts running around after Frankie. The windows are open (no air conditioning) and Michelle can’t bring herself to believe that the window guards—which could stop a gorilla—are strong enough to prevent Isabella from cart-wheeling out. We have to get up, too.
- We brush our teeth (baking soda) using a cup of water (rather than letting the faucet run). We may or may not take a bath—one at a time in the same water—depending on whether it is bath day (we’re in the water conservation stage). We use homemade unscented beeswax soap to wash and baking soda for shampoo.
- Breakfast consists of marvelously fresh cantaloupe and toast, both from the farmers’ market. I haven’t been able to bake my own bread for the last few weeks because the combination of a 400 degree oven, 90 degree weather and no air conditioning could potentially overwhelm my family’s ability to live with me.
- One of us—depending on who wins the “discussion”—walks Frankie down the nine flights of stairs, around the block and back up the nine flights of stairs (no non-self-propelled transportation which means no elevator).
- We all get dressed in clothes that are just this side of fermented (thanks to the combination of perpetually putting off washing our clothes by hand and our attempts to conserve water).
- We stumble down the stairs, Michelle carrying the bags and bike helmets and Isabella riding on my shoulders.
- We stop at the Gray Dog with Michelle’s reusable cup and my glass jar. The no coffee part of the local food stage has fallen by the wayside. Michelle couldn’t cope with the caffeine withdrawal. I couldn’t cope with not hanging out in coffee shops.
- One of us delivers Isabella to her new Montessori nursery school, using either the tricycle rickshaw or a seat on the back of my bike. Sadly, Isabella this week left her childcare provider of two years (We love you and miss you every minute, Peggy). Thankfully, the nursery school is on the ground floor (But we don’t love your six flights of stairs, Pegs).
- Michelle rides up the very substandard Sixth Avenue bike lane to work on the rickshaw, eliciting smiles and comments all the way. I ride over to the Writers’ Room, where I work.
- Michelle gets a pass and takes the elevator to her office because she works on the 43rd floor. The Writers’ Room is only on the 12th Floor. I take the stairs to the 11th and then take the elevator the last flight because there is no reentry on 12. My brain wonders every time whether that is idiotic (my legs are quite sure it is).
- At the Writers’ Room, I sit very quietly tapping on my keyboard and giving the impression to anyone else that I am working instead of procrastinating. Then I actually get some work on the book done. Then I procrastinate some more. At Michelle’s office, she produces about fifteen articles to every one page I manage to write.
- After lunch (generally fruit and cheese which we both bring from home), I go up and down about 563 more flights of stairs in order to shop at the farmers’ market, take the food home, take Frankie for her walk and get back to work at the Writers’ Room.
- I write the next day’s blog post and make phone calls to friends about how slow the book writing is going (To my editor: Just joking!).
- One of us picks up Isabella, again on our respective bike. If it’s me, Isabella and I either “see what happens”—which means we ride around searching for adventure—or we go to the Hudson River and watch the sunset.
- We meet Michelle back at the apartment when it’s just getting dark. Dinner consists mostly of salads and eggs or cheese (simple fresh food that makes us happy and thin). We chat around the table. We spark up the one solar-powered lamp and read.
- Michelle and I flip to see which of us will wrestle Isabella into her bed. Isabella says she’s not tired. We ask when she will be tired. She says, “Not today.”
- If I lost the toss, I sit on Isabella’s bed and tell her stories: about the day she was born, about the day we got Frankie from North Shore Animal Rescue, about pretending to go alligator fishing with my favorite uncle when I was a kid. “Another story, please…another story, please,” Isabella says.
- Michelle and I brush our teeth by beeswax candlelight. We talk a bit. One of us humps Frankie out. We talk some more until, by 9:30, our bodies, apparently cued by the darkness, tell us bedtime has arrived.
In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “And so it goes.”
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.