Do you sometimes feel too connected to the world? Like, all the information coming at you just overwhelms your senses, your soul? I’ve had that feeling a lot lately. I think it has been building over the last few years but really propelled itself this past year. The news comes fast and is constantly changing. Social media is everywhere, and as someone who is trying to work for herself, it feels impossible to avoid. I have to keep a Facebook profile, I have to have Instagram and make sure that my page has a theme or is cohesive, I need to be on Pinterest because that is really where you build your following, and, of course, don’t forget about Twitter and Snapchat. What?!? I can’t keep up. At least, that is how i feel most days. And then when I do try to keep up, my time gets sucked away, disappears as I get lost in some Instagram black hole. Add to that the ever changing and fragile state of our world and, frankly, I want to hide in a dark room and never come out!
But I don’t. Instead I do the opposite and get out, outside to the mountains or ocean or lake or any other place where I can cut out all the noise. I check out. But in the best way possible.
We recently took one of these trips, almost without even realizing we were doing it. Our dear friends have been inviting us to Grandma’s Cabin since we first met three years ago. For whatever reason, it never worked out until this past summer. We knew that the cabin was in a remote part of Northern California and that it was considered primitive (no glamping here). What we didn’t realize was just how different the experience would be. We arrived Thursday evening after driving over seven hours from LA. Our friends were already there and other friends with them. Immediately upon arriving, I knew that this would be a fun weekend and a much needed break. We lost cell service about about twenty minutes before we got to the cabin and didn’t get it again until we left or went looking for it. There was no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing, no TV or wifi. The kids had devices but weren’t allowed to use them while we were there. It was, honestly, a little disconcerting at first. What if something happens? How will we get in touch with people? What if there is an emergency? All these thoughts went through my head. Also, silly ones like how will I post my Instagram picture of the lake?? (I can’t even believe the ridiculousness of that statement.) Mind you, there was a resort about fifteen minutes away that had wifi and a bit of cell service so we were close to ‘civilization’ if we needed to be. And we did visit it (mostly for the espresso) but really tried to actually disconnect.
It took me some time to adjust to not constantly checking my phone (really, who do I think I am, Supergirl needing to save the world or something?!). It also took me a little bit to adjust to kids in the wild! Our friends kids had been there for several days already and took our kids right off to do what kids do in the woods, explore. Again, I had almost a sense of panic when I couldn’t see them or hear them. We live in Los Angeles, I’m not used to them being off in the wild! But the other parents assured me that this is what they had been doing and will do the whole time we were there. I tried to relax and remind myself how great of an experience this would be for them. But I still worried. They explored, built forts, created mini worlds out of sticks and rocks, swam in the lake, looked for stars. Hours and hours of unstructured play. What a novelty.
There is an art to cooking and cleaning with none of the advantages of modern life. My friend, Alice, has it down. We got water from the pump, boiled it over the gas stove, then used it to wash the dishes, pouring it from one bucket to another. It was quite amazing really. And there was no skimping on the cooking either! We had a feast after feast, cooking over campfire but also making delicious salads and pasta and wine with enough appetizers to fill us up before dinner was even served. For dessert, of course, we had smore’s, but then added a twist to see who could come up with the most creative take on the classic. As we would let the food settle, we watched the shooting stars in the pitch black sky above us. Breakfast was a feast too once we could finally get the kids back in from the woods to eat it. There was no shortage on good food just because there was a shortage on amenities.
Our last full day in the mountains was by far the best. We had a canoe and rented a little fishing boat, loaded up the kids and adults, packed enough food for a huge picnic and took off to Naked Rock, a big rock in the middle of the Caples Lake named that for the sheer bareness of it (although our kids made sure to actually make live up to its name by the end of our day). We spent the day on top of that rock, kids exploring the shallow waters around it and then jumping off into the deep water when we found a diving spot. We had a picnic with sandwiches and salads and wine. I took a warm nap with my daughter snuggled up under the sun with the sound of the lake around us. It was heaven. Not once did I think about checking my email. How novel.
Sunday came and it was time to return to the big, fast world. It’s a long drive, enough time to enjoy the stillness in your body from being so removed before having to deal with modern life again. We operate at a high frequency all the time, even when we try not to be so connected. It’s almost impossible not to, and there are plenty of websites and books and techniques to try and help us quiet that frequency. We could spend thousands of dollars on devices or tricks; or we could just go out into the woods. The beauty of the latter is that it is open to everyone, you just have to go. Our family has spent a lot of time camping over the last several years. We love it and have gotten to the point where we now need it. But it started because it was an economical way to see the world. We can’t always go on a big trip to Europe. But we can always throw our tent into the car and disappear out into the woods, which it turns out, is the best thing of all.