It is early evening just off a dirt road somewhere south of Kaiser Canyon in northwestern Arizona. My friend of over twenty years has gone for a walk. I unfold my camp chair and sit. The sky is veiled with clouds, the light a soft and dimming gray. There is a knee-high fire ring some desert-naive person has built. I breathe in the scent of twilight creosote and begin to feel my internet-accelerated mind slow.
My friend returns. “Not the most beautiful campsite we’ve ever had,” he says. “Gloomy,” I say. He begins to tear down the fire-ring. “Amateurs.”
We build a fire. He cooks our supper. Night moves in, but we can only see a few stars beyond the cloud cover. We move our chairs in closer to the fire and find ourselves reminiscing about the places, people, cats and dogs we’ve known in our 20+ year friendship. “A campfire,” he says, “is better than the internet.”
We watch the flames till they become embers, and go to our beds. I’m in the camper. He is in his bedroll. We are not really alone. There is an absence in this place. He has had to have his beloved Sally, the very good dog, killed a few months earlier.
Neither of us sleeps well. I sense that Sally walks by the camper toward my friend’s bedroll.
I wake. My friend is gone. He is an early riser. I’m not. I go to the fire ring. There are only ashes. His camp-stove lies on the ground. For fifteen years I have told myself and my friend that I have to bring my own camp-stove since I don’t know how to work his. I peel an orange. I’m in the throes of caffeine deprivation, but I find our campsite sweetly perfect.
My friend returns. He fires up the stove. We make coffee. We sit with our back to the fire-ring and watch desert rain clouds move toward us. “Sally,” he says, “came to me last night. She lay down and put her head on my shoulder. I knew it was a dream, but as I woke, I hung onto her presence.” I tell him that I had felt her walk by the camper toward him.
Desert clouds move in and over us. I feel the beginning of a delicate rain – and an even more delicate restoration.
What do I do to recharge?
When I need to recharge, I read. I walk. I make art. I confess that my art is created on my iPhone or iPad but all ringers, buzzers, alerts, and notifications are turned off. It annoys me when my camera/easel rings.
I’m happily less a slave to the internet than I once was. Facebook once a day is enough. And if I didn’t make any art I like? Then I don’t need to post or check it at all. I skim my email for messages. I answer time sensitive missives and red flag those I deem important, not urgent. Once or twice a week, I go through and answer those red flagged ones. All at once. When I’m feeling strong.
I remember a story about an old Vermonter and his visiting grandson. While they were conversing, the phone rang. And rang. And rang. Finally, the grandson said, “Geez, Grandpa, aren’t you going to answer the phone?”
“Nawp. I had that phone put in for my convenience.”
I remind myself that I had that internet installed for my convenience.
Silence is paramount for all my “recharge” pursuits. I have a two page list of television shows and movies recommended by friends and family. I can’t yet bring myself to break the silence and watch any of them. Maybe someday. Or maybe not. After all, I had that flat screen TV put in for my convenience. —Lynette Sheppard
They tell me I need to recharge, reboot, revive. Why? They repeat themselves and sympathetically encourage me to rejuvenate, restore, reenergize. Why? There’s nothing wrong with me just the way I am. Maybe I like being connected. Maybe I feel needed and important. Maybe I am needed and important. Maybe knowing I am available to my friends and family and clients and vendors is the greatest energizer of all.
The unrequested advise keeps coming. “Re”-something for Christ’s sake. Maybe they should just reenter that hole they crawled out of.
I stare at the computer screen, my fingers poised to strike the keys to create polished words that don’t reflect how I truly feel. They count on me to respond with wisdom and guidance. They depend on me to react in a manner reassuring them of my experience and dedicated service. And truth be known, if they don’t like the outcome of my response, theymight reply with outrageous accusations that I have destroyed their repose. They might threaten to retain legal services and seek retribution.
To hell with them. To hell with their needy repetition of phone calls, emails, text message, facebook messages and tweets.
Slamming the computer shut, I stand and take a deep breath. I retrieve my sneakers from the back of the closet and lace them up snuggly. I dig my earphones from out of my computer bag and plug them into my iPod’s collection of amazing favorite tunes. Songs that take me back 20, 30, 40 years. I leave the work behind and begin striding down the road. The words and the music are restoring. The clouds overhead take on familiar shapes of teddy bears, kissing lips and melting ice cream cones. Eye candy. The birds soar, the breeze brushes my cheeks. Stimulating. My pace slows to take in the butterflies as they flit from the milkweed pods to my left. Calming. The goats on the right side of the road look at me quizzically, tilting their heads just so. I send them a baaaaa of sorts. They decide I am not worth their attention and once again, start munching on the tall grass in the field. Humorous.
Thirty minutes or so later, I am back on my deck looking at the computer lying on the table. Nah, I say to myself. Think I will treat myself to a nice Zin. They can wait until tomorrow. Relaxed. —Theresa Souers