Aaaah, that felt good. Six straight days of no internet and no email. The best diet I’ve ever been on (well, perhaps the only one).
I get so tangled up in the web these days – emailing, facebooking, tweeting, googling, blogging – it’s easy to forget what life is like without these technological time suckers. I recommend everyone take a week or so away from their computers, turn off the mail function on your Crackberry or iPhone and really just live like we used to – sans digital extensions of our bodies.
Here’s a little rundown of how I spent my week computer-free.
To prepare I contacted anyone I had set appointments with for the week and made sure they had my phone number. I set up autoresponse on my email to let everyone know where the heck I was all week. I tweeted and posted to facebook (and this blog) my intentions. I cleared out my inbox so as not to completely overwhelm myself upon my return to the ‘puter. I also looked up any addresses I might need for the week so as not to put myself in a spot where I’d have to hop online for any reason.
ditching digital detritus
Apropos to the diet, on Monday I took a friend to an ewaste recycling center in Brooklyn, so that she could recycle her old computers, a VCR, and some other random electronic waste. I had a few batteries, orphaned remote controls, and wires to return as well. Feels good to get that clutter out of the home and into the hands of someone who will use it, rather than just tossing it into the landfill.
reading & writing (not much ‘rithmetic)
Like a step back in time, I reached for my low-tech informational recording implements – books, paper, pens. Oh, old friends, how could I have neglected you for so long? I had forgotten how much I enjoyed writing long hand in a journal, letting thoughts flow through ink. It’s such a different thought process than typing, where you could easily edit yourself by just deleting what you’ve typed. There’s more time to stop, reflect, look around. And there’s also something more personal about seeing my own handwriting for pages on end, recording my thoughts as they come, making little starred notations on things I want to remember, and being able to physically page through to see what I had written the day before. No keyboard, no screen, no clicking, no virtual folders to search through, no software applications to open.
I’ve got a big ol’ pile of books collecting on my coffee table – mainly around the subject of permaculture, as I’m studying for my permaculture design certificate. It was great to not be tempted by email & all of its cohorts so that I could focus on reading.
raspberry picking in the park
On Monday afternoon I headed into the park to check in on some raspberry bushes I came across a few weeks ago. Some of the berries were ripe, some rotten, and still others had a ways to go. There wasn’t much of a harvest, but I had fun nonetheless. Listening to bird calls, the trickling of water on the waterfall trail in Prospect Park, observing sunlight filtering through foliage. And observing patterns in nature. I noticed that in many places where the raspberries grow, so does poison ivy. Luckily, so does its antidote, jewelweed (if you know what to look for!)
Leaves of three, let it be!
My meager berry harvest
I was hoping to have enough berries to can, but alas, it wasn’t so. But we did stock up on peaches to can and we did this on Tuesday night. A messy affair, but a fun process. My favorite part was peeling. An easy way to peel peaches is to throw them in boiling water for about 60 seconds then put them in a cold lemon bath (to prevent further cooking and browning). The skins come right off.
more natural observations
I think my less used senses were heightened during this week. While in the park, I heard a hawk before seeing it land in a tree. On Houston Street near 6th Ave I was surprised by a bird call not too common in those parts. I looked up and saw a cardinal. On both occasions, I looked around a few times to see if anyone else noticed these creatures. And on both occasions not one head was tilted up in its direction.
In Prospect Park, I closed my eyes and listened. I did an inventory of every sound. Lawnmower grumbling, children shrieking, cicadas chirping, sneakers hitting the path, a beagle baying, picnickers chatting, tires humming and construction equipment slamming on the road outside of the park, the wind blowing against my ear. I felt the damp earth beneath me. The twigs and grass I was sitting on, the tiny insects crawling on my legs, the warm sun on my feet, the gentle breeze on my skin. I smelled only fresh cut grass. I think I could taste it, too.
On Sunday, we stumbled upon this huge green (squishy) caterpillar
Turns out he’s a polyphemus moth caterpillar, according to these two park rangers
Prospect Park swan & signets, ducks, and migrating geese
enjoying every bite
Another benefit to staying away from the computer, an often attention-deficit-inducing place, I was able to focus on something as simple as mindful eating. Breathing, chewing slowly, noticing flavors, appreciating where the food came from and how it was benefiting my body. All great things I should do whether or not I’ve been typing the day away or not.
First heirloom tomato sandwich of the season!
On Saturday, on lunch break from permaculture class, I went with a friend to this great raw food joint, SproutCraft. We had the most amazing squash blossoms stuffed with almond mozzarella cheese. I didn’t even know you could make mozzarella with almonds (though I make my own almond milk, and that I only figured out a few months ago). I found this recipe for making almond cheese, but not sure if it’ll come out as mozzarella.
Delicious stuffed squash blossoms at SproutCraft
being the sloth
Usually when I’m walking about in the city, it’s to get somewhere. In those cases, I tend to walk quickly, passing people in front of me, getting impatient when someone is blocking the way, etc. But this week, I didn’t care to go fast. I took my time getting places, not really even thinking about getting anywhere, more enjoying the walk itself. I had heard that sloths have highly developed brains because they move so slowly, carefully calculating each movement – not a bad creature to emulate.
He’s real & alive! My friend Amy took this during her class at the Bronx Zoo
up on the roof
On two occasions I found myself up on the roof, overlooking the tetris-like vista that is NYC. The first was at GreenSpaces, a shared office space in downtown Brooklyn. A friend works in the building and told me about the happy hours they have on Fridays. So I tagged along and enjoyed a few glasses up on their roof.
GreenSpaces veggie garden
Living art in background, edible art in foreground
The second time was during class (ssshhh don’t tell the building manager!). We went to the silvery, bare roof to imagine what was possible from a permaculture design perspective. Veggie gardens, rainwater gravity fed showers, noise barriers to block the constant hum of air conditioners. We all had a different vision, creating possibilities on a blank slate. With a multitude of underutilized roofs in the city, so many opportunities to create abundant landscapes exist.
The view from our ‘classroom’ roof
I rode my bike to class on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to turn onto Lafayette Street to find no cars (!), only a highway of bicycles and joggers. Imagine if there were streets designated just for pedestrians and bikers? What a healthier, happier, less stressed out city we would have.
Car-free & carefree
On Sunday, I returned to the technologically driven world to an inbox of over 750 messages. Forcing this deluge of information was partly intentional. I wanted to get a sense of how much information I actually process every week and how I could cut back on it. By having a culmination of a week’s worth of emails, I was able to determine which newsletters I could unsubscribe from, and which information I could actively seek instead of passively receive. I took myself off of all non-essential email lists and instead signed up for RSS feeds in Google Reader. This way I can control my exposure to information more easily. Email is a great communication tool, but it generally takes up too much time. My goal is to strictly limit time spent on email, ultimately getting it down to about 30 minutes a day.
I also laid out a basic structure of how I want to spend my days, giving time to activities like reading (offline), creating (crafts & such), and exploring. I think these are vital to keeping oneself sane, happy, and full of creative energy. Of course I’ll still be blogging, tweeting, and emailing, but I’ll be sure to make time for all of the other great things happening in the world around me.
How do you find balance in this tech-driven world?