No Electronics

Last week my laptop froze and had to be airlifted to the Mac store. As it had been glued to my hands for the last twelve months, the removal hurt. Soon after, I came down with a massive withdrawal cold. I lay in bed, sniffling and wondering what good life was without a large electronic device nearby. 

Days later, on MLK weekend, my family took a trip to the Sierras, where we stayed in a cabin with no WiFi and no cell service. Now my phone too, was a decorative object, perhaps serviceable as a trivot or coaster. As I sat a beer down on it, I wondered what to do with a whole day off the grid. Nothing but beautiful trees and alpine lakes surrounded us. We were trapped in nature! 

I took a walk with a friend in the pines and we talked about the old days, back in the eighties, before email or Facebook, where it was hard to keep in touch with people. Like, you might hear that a friend moved to Boston, but you had no idea where. What to do? If you knew a person’s hometown and last name, you could track down their parents through the information operator. Because parents don’t move—that was the logic. Your friend Joe’s mom always knew Joe's new address in Somerville. Mothers were the pre-internet world wide web.

Thus, on a Holiday weekend, with no phone, laptop, or cable, and my family out skiing, I remembered how the past worked. Loneliness. Solitude. Quiet. Hour upon hour of nothing to do but read a book or take a walk. So, I took a walk. I read a book. I sketched. Still more hours existed! Hours that I normally would have chopped up into nervous little minutes of glancing at emails and Facebook. Surely an interesting email would be coming in any second! I should check again. What did you say honey? Just minute. Sorry. You have my attention now.

With an entire afternoon of nothing, I sat down and thought about my two projects, a book and a website. In the quiet, spacious hours, I stepped back from the noisy details and thought about them as a whole. In the wide space in my head, clear thoughts about how to proceed sprang into mind. Timelines emerged, unbidden. Calm descended about the future. Amazed, I wrote down the words of the oracle before they disappeared. With a wave of nostalgia, I felt an old emotion from 1989—the poignant desire to talk to people after thinking.

At 6:30, the merry skiers returned, filling the house with laughter again. Someone found a DVD of “Meet the Fockers,” and in an instance, we careened  from empty to cluttered time. Soon enough, we were headed home, away from the trees into the skyscrapers. When I hit cell service again, I had 70 emails, all junk. The next day I picked up my laptop and typed up the plan I had made in the mountains, wondering where the hand-written wisdom came from. Then I got a text. I checked email. A pine tree I was walking by reminded me of something, but I couldn't remember what it was.