A vacation trip to the east coast last week brought forth a surprise. Despite my best (or worst?) intentions to mix in some work with the pleasure of my first experience of New England in the fall, it turned out that for the several days I spent on the rural Maine coast, I had no Internet access. Adding insult to injury, my cellphone service was down as well. Apparently, there are not enough people out there to warrant the digital infrastructure that would allow those far-flung inhabitants to keep fully on pace with the 21st century.
Now, I am someone with a profession that requires buddying up with both my computer and phone all day. And my primary avocation—readin’ & writin’—requires the same. So predictably enough, this disconnection in Maine was initially a cause for concern.
I think I remember uttering the words “Oh no…” when I first discovered, after several attempts, that my browser was simply not going to fire up the e-edition of the New York Times to accompany my morning coffee. And that the photos of trees and water and rocks that I shot with my handy-dandy iPhone camera were just not going to take off in that miraculous way that they do through the stratosphere, landing in friends’ and relatives’ similar gizmos within a nanosecond or two.
In short, I was marooned, adrift, out of touch, cut off from most all my usual sources of daily communication save for the words and thoughts I could express directly to my traveling companion and the dear friends who had voluntarily chosen to live in this digitally deprived way.
So this is about the time when I should report that after the expected consternation and “Oh, no”-ness of the first disconnected moments and hours passed, my spirits began to soar with newfound freedom and emotion.
That I found myself breathing deeply of the crisp fall air and noticing those fantastic simmering leaves as I lifted my head from my machines and gazed for the first time in years at the sky.
That my two-finger typing turned into a single middle finger aimed at the machines that had kept my unwitting self oppressed, head bowed in strange obsessive devotion to electronic gadgets that sucked my attention away from the things of the world that really matter.
Except that wasn’t what I experienced at all.
Oh, I got by all right. No wailing and gnashing of teeth, no serious fretfulness or withdrawal symptoms as I was forced to separate from so much of my standard activities devoted to learning and communication. I still had my books and poetry to protect me. (Thank you, Paul and Art!)
But in the end, the digital disconnection was a mere inconvenience, leaving me feeling neither mournfully deprived (at least for those few days) nor newly liberated as a citizen of the de-digitized world.
For better and for worse (I think it’s far more of the former than the latter), this connected world is the world we live in, one that I have chosen to embrace along with now billions of others whose primary modes of information-gathering, communicating and entertaining themselves and each other are almost completely reliant on phones that slip into pockets, and computers that fit tidily on laps and are transported easily via briefcase or daypack.
I love being able to text my daughter letting her know her Daddy’s thinking about her thousands of miles away, agonizing with her about yet another Giants’ relief corps 9th inning collapse.
I love the thoughtful, funny, mournful, outraged emails that land in my digital mailbox every day (and about every 10 minutes when a certain presidential candidate goes off on yet another moral bender).
I love looking up at those shimmering leaves, which neither my computer nor my phone ever prevent me from indulging on a daily basis.
Indeed, the experience is made all the better by being able to point that sometimes maligned and cursed phone up at the trees or out to the shore to capture what I am seeing, then answering the nearly universal call to exclaim to friends and loved ones or else anyone standing conveniently by: “Hey, look at that! And that!! And oh my, look over there, too!!!”
Couldn’t do that while I was disconnected last week. But the camera did what it most always does, and its memory held fast, so here I am, back in the connected world again, late on the uptake but pleased to say anyway: “Hey, look at these!”
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Deep appreciation to the photographers!
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at the top of this page. Some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
All Maine photos by Andrew Hidas, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/
There are nights I have problems sleeping. However, when I remember to, I go fly fishing. I love the drive through the tall pine trees with their arms extended catching as much sunshine as possible, yet generous enough to warm my spirits. With great anticipation I remove my gear and walk through the sunny meadow towards my favorite starting point. I sit down in both the meadow and waters edge, observing the insects activities. Hurriedly I peruse my assorted fly boxes choosing that perfect specimen calling out, “Pick me, pick me!” I can recall every ripple of the river, every ribbon of color of the rocks that block the flow. Trying to land their perfect hors d’oeuvre in the perfect spot of their dinner plate, I strain my eyes to catch a glimpse of their presence. In my dream I never catch a fish, causing me to travel upstream. Remembering every turn in the river, every fallen log, every outcropping of rock, every change in the flow of the river, it occurs to me now that I can recall all of this because every time I have gone fly fishing my mind is cleared of all the everyday nonsense on which we wastefully occupy our lives.
That sounds lovely, Kirk, but where the heck are the photos?
How wonderful to see you milling about in my old stopping grounds. Maine in the Fall is a wonder to behold. The changing leaves, the crisp air, the apple harvest and the cider. It’s a special time. It’s the only time I miss it. As soon as the snow starts to fall, get me outta there! My favorite photo is the barn. There are lots of barns like that scattered about the landscape of Maine.
That’s essentially what I heard from everyone, Raymond: Maine winters ain’t for sissies…(Not to imply you are one, of course; sometimes “sissy” is synonymous with “sensible.”) Sure looks & feels alluring from fall’s prism, though. But up on Cadillac Mountain, struggling to stand in what felt like gale-force winds that were probably just a bare hint of what is still to come, I thought: “Well, a nice place to visit in October, at least!”