warm breeze girl in white sun hat

Original oil painting by Susan Roux

I now know what it feels like to live without a phone, internet or television.  I spent 48 hours without such technology. It felt like a warm breeze through a sundress.  I always say life is about relationships and experiences. A lack of buzzing, beeps, chimes and talking heads gently nudged my attention to family, physical labor, nature and being.

Headed for the Hills

After a weekend in the music-infused city of Nashville, I headed east in my rented Toyota Yaris (read: bare bones economy ride) to my dad and step-mom’s new place off the beaten track.  The location is so remote my parents had to meet me in the parking lot of a liquor store and guide me to their home.  I’m glad they did because I never would have found it.  I’d still be circling cow pastures and hoarder trailers.

Unplugged and Damn Happy About It

Before heading up the swerving and switchback road to my parents’ house I let everyone know I’d be offline and unplugged for a couple of days.  I didn’t know if my cell phone service would work out there. There was something satisfying  about knowing no one could get me.  Not only would the notifications stop but my responses would be unnecessary as well.  Freedom!  

Good or bad my cell service did work in the hills (small plug for Verizon Wireless).  I still got peppered with texts and emails.  I ignored all but those from my kids. It was a good opportunity to see who knows and listens to me and who doesn’t.

While existing in an environment without cyberspace and televised distractions I followed my parents’ example and worked with nature. The sun-baked our heads midday so we got up early and did work around the house in the morning.  My dad shored up the sagging porch roof. My step-mom helped him and prepared lunch. I washed windows in the back of the house in the shade and still required a shower before we ate.

Lunch is usually an afterthought at home but as I worked outside in the cicada-filled air, exuding sweat and elbow grease, the meal between breakfast and dinner became very important.  I imagined men and women working in the fields long ago, waiting for the meal-time bell.  I couldn’t wait to rinse off and grab some grub.;)

During and after lunch (lasagna, wow hearty!) we talked and relaxed.  Sort of like a Mexican siesta we lounged about, took short snoozes in chairs or on the couch, read or just listened to the radio (our main connection to the real world — consistently on, playing country music).

Sometimes Families Have to Clean Out Shit

Once the temperature dropped about ten degrees from the midday high, we went back to work.  This time we sweat as a team cleaning out the barn/outbuilding.  We were all given a pair of gloves to wear and a warning about the possibility of running across a brown recluse spider that likes to hide in untouched places. I was proud of myself for handling mouse poop, dog poop and potential spider bites with aplomb.  I breathed through my mouth to avoid the smell (got to taste it instead), wore shitty clothes and carried on.  My parents kept apologizing for having me work on my vacation but it felt good to be useful.  There have been plenty of times when my parents could have used help and I was unavailable. I liked being there this time.

Took my third shower of the day before dinner.

Cheap Entertainment

After a supper (seems more appropriate than dinner) of ribs, sweet corn, black-eyed peas and brown rice, we gathered our glasses of lemonade and went out on the porch to watch the lightning illuminate the distant sky.  The flashes of light entertained us like fireworks. The missing thunder let us know the storm was too far away to be a threat.  We could swing and talk (or not talk) on the porch for hours. The view from our twilight perch: Grey-green tree soaked hills and a glass-like lake.  My dad pointed out the changing of the colors in the clouds and the effect that had on the water’s reflections.  My step-mom and I coordinated our swinging rhythm like patient dance partners as we chatted in the two-person swing.

My dad told me about cars he owned, wrecked and loved.

He told me the song, All Alone Am I, by Brenda Lee was popular the summer he met my mother.

I learned how my stepmother announced that she was going to marry my father the day she met him.

I learned new things about my parents and myself on that Tennessee hill; meaningful things that technology would have only interrupted.

What do you learn when you give yourself space from technology? How do you feel? How do you connect with yourself? Nature? Family?

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