The more connected we are, the less connected we become. Really, I think it’s true! Less connected to sounds, sights, smells, the feel of the wind, the touch of a hand, the taste of an apple. We are constantly barraged by interruptions – email, texts, tweets, pings, pokes – you name it – lots of digital noise that “keeps us connected”. Yeah, maybe, but connected to what? Does it really matter what’s trending? #Idontcare!
I feel we are losing touch with the world around us, spending more time chatting and less time really listening to each other in any meaningful way. Call me an anachronistic throwback, and maybe I am, but I miss the days when if you were not home and the phone rang you couldn’t be reached. I can even remember a time before answering machines, so if you were not home you…gasp….didn’t even get a message. Did the world fall apart? No, and a lot more people had dinner together and actually talked to each other, rather than listening with half of their mind while the other half paid attention to a smart phone.
Ok, what prompted this nostalgic rant? I just got back from 2 days spent all alone in a cabin in the Methow Valley. No internet, no TV, and no cell phone service. (I can feel my friend Jeff (Jeff Wendorff)breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about this!). At first, disconnecting can be a bit unnerving, as we have all gotten a bit too used to our electronic tethers. There is a bit of panic when you realize that you can’t answer that urgent email, or download the latest greatest Youtube video, but then you adjust, you relax, and you begin to feel an odd tickling sensation. You know what that sensation is? It’s freedom. And damn that freedom feels good! Suddenly your time, your mind and your attention are your own.
You know what I did, all alone with my dog, on a wet November afternoon? I walked in a meadow. Just walked. Left my phone behind, left behind all anticipation of a call or text message. I went for a wander with no time frame and no destination in mind. I simply let my heart beat – let my lungs breathe fresh air. I was able to smell the wet grass and the impending snow storm. I followed my dog’s happy nose as we tracked deer prints in the mud. I stopped a while in a grove of quaking aspen and listened as the wind and rain rustled through the last remaining of the now grey leaves. I wondered silently if perhaps as the phones get smarter do we get dumber; are we trading away something precious and elemental, our animal natures, our connection to the wild, to the seasons, to our senses?
Unplugged at last, I was able to remember why I pursued nature photography in the first place – not for the love of LightRoom, but for love of nature! To go outside and use my camera to see more clearly, to be more present and more connected. Lately, I have been suffering from pixel and digital overload. I have also been suffering from constant connection ADD. If I am writing, I am interrupted with little dings of text or email. If I am reading, my phone talks to me to remind me to pick up my son from soccer (this, I must confess I really need, as I have left him alone and cold on many a field). Taking a walk, my husband texts me when dinner is ready. So much for quiet contemplation. So much for reading Tolstoy, it’s all LOL, Bcuz, C ya, and 10/4 24/7.
So what to do if you can not run away to a little cabin in the woods? Give yourself a mini- break. Turn off the alert on your phone, or turn the darn thing completely off – especially when talking to someone – and listen to them, really listen, with your whole self. That basketball score can wait. Close the laptop, putdown the iPad, and take a walk. Look at a tree or bird, or just do nothing, watch the clouds go by, listen to the wind. I found it to be wonderful and restorative, and a great thing to do before the onslaught of the “Holiday Season”. So wanting to share my joy, I encourage you to disconnect a bit more from your devices, and connect a bit more with the natural world and people around you. Your life will be richer for it. So in that spirit I bid you adeiu, it’s time for dinner and unfortunately I just received a text that tonight I am expected to cook it!!!