Unplug by taking a walk in the woods. Pictured here: Cornell Woodland in North Marshfield.

(This article was originally published in September 2011. It was inadvertently left out of this blog.)

Can you be content without your internet connection? What about your cell phone? Or electricity? Hurricane Irene brought many of us an opportunity to ponder these questions.
As I write this, our electricity has just been restored after 3 days without. Since it’s summertime, it wasn’t so bad, as we didn’t have to worry about heat. However, with electric-powered utilities – stove, hot water heater, everything else – we had an interesting time “going without.”
While I’m not thrilled about the amount of food we had to throw away, the power outage wasn’t been unendurable. On Sunday, it felt good to hunker down indoors and wait out the heavy winds. On Monday, which was calm and sunny, there was plenty of yard work to do. On Tuesday, we just tried to keep busy. It’s a good thing it was nice out! Wednesday morning was when it came back on. Hallelujah!
The power outage has me thinking about Being Connected, and how much I rely on it. Not having an internet connection revealed just how much time I spend online. My laptop, which stays on all day, is set to check for email constantly. I can’t tell you how many times I glanced at it, looking for the telltale red dot . . . before remembering that no mail could come through. Yes, I admit it: having grown accustomed to constant connectivity, and I did feel somewhat insecure without it.
I charged my laptop fully before the storm began, and thus I spent all of Sunday working (till the battery went dead). A friend teased me, suggesting that a power loss could be considered an opportunity NOT to work. Why not, instead, take a day off and relax? Not so easy for someone like me. (I admit: I take refuge in my work – it’s more concrete than the rest of my life, which like everyone’s, can be messy.)
But Monday, with no chance of using the computer until I could find a place to recharge it, I was open to other options. Our yard was completely covered with green – pine branches, oak leaves, giant fallen maple branches. My morning class had been cancelled, my son was with his father, so I had no other responsibilities. I grabbed a rake and got busy.
It was a pleasant two hours. I could have put on my iPod but I opted to enjoy the quiet and the rhythmic scrape of the rake. Neighbors would walk by, and we’d discuss how we were coping with the power outage, but for the most part I was solitary. When I was done, the yard looked great, and I felt good for having spent the morning doing something physical.
A few months ago, I changed my cell service, and had the option of getting a smart phone with a data plan, so I could be connected to the internet at all times. I thought it better not to. While I would love to have internet access at my fingertips anytime and anywhere, I was reluctant. The $30 cost per month was part of it, but really, it was the threat of having no unplugged time whatsoever that turned me off.
I used to carry my cell phone with me everywhere, just in case. But now I don’t. There isn’t much in life that can’t wait an hour. As fond as I am of the immediacy the internet and cell phones provide, I think it’s important to spend some time (voluntarily!) unplugged every day. There is something to be said for adopting a slower pace.
The following are suggestions for ways to enjoy some time unplugged. Most of them involve being outdoors. I recommend that you leave your iPod at home, and if you bring your phone, do so just for safety’s sake, and not to entertain yourself.
Go For A Bike Ride — Take a spin down a scenic road and absorb the sounds of nature around you. Enjoy the view. Breathe in the fresh air. Feel the joy of propelling yourself forward on two wheels. The South Shore is a gorgeous place to explore by bicycle.
Take A Walk In The Woods – We have so many enchanting nature preserves and conservation parcels on the South Shore. Select one, and spend an hour just rambling. Bring a friend and have an uninterrupted conversation – or just enjoy each other’s company in silence. Bring a child and make some discoveries – find out what’s under that log, or who lives in that tree.
Go To The Beach. The water tends to be quite warm around here in September. But even if you’re not inclined to swim, you can take off your shoes and go for a walk along the shoreline, or explore tide pools, or a jetty, or the wrack line. Or just sit and watch seagulls, and listen to the sounds of the surf.
Go For A Paddle. The North and South Rivers, the Green Harbor River, the Jones River, and their tributaries offer quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of life. Out on the river in a canoe or a kayak, you can enjoy a slower pace, with plenty of time for contemplation. Take a guided trip, or just explore on your own.
Take A Yoga Class – NSRWA’s outdoor Yoga at the River’s Edge classes end for the season on September 10, but the annual program resumes next June. In the meantime, you might try an indoor class (no cell phones allowed!). Take some time to tune in with yourself and unwind.
By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein
September 2011
Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com.