When I first spent a night at the beach house (mid December), it came as a surprise that the house was in a digital blank spot: neither Internet nor cellphone connectivity. Sure, I could drive 15 minutes back along the road from the shore, but after more than 7 hours on the road, there was zero desire to climb back into the car.
Unwinding takes time, so the first hour normally spent checking email, phone messages, and the like felt a bit surreal: brain and fingers all ready to hit the digiverse that wasn’t there. The normal cure in a place like this would be to head for the beach, but the night was stormy and rain lashed against the windows.
So I sat, stood, paced a bit, and then spotted a goldmine: a giant stack of The New Yorker going back a couple of decades. Including the issue featuring the now famous ‘On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.’ cartoon. No tweets, no texts, no emails, no ringtones. Just the indoor silence overlaid with the wind, rain, and waves.
The skies cleared by morning, and the digital itch forgotten thanks to a stunning view of the sea. A few hours later, back on the road returning to the so-called real world.
Peace & Quiet in a Digital Dark Spot
I was back again six weeks later but this time with a serious winter storm about to erupt. And now there were two of us without external connectivity. Knowing we had at least two days of isolation ahead. (It turned out to be three.) No instant headlines, instant messages, instant banality.
The rain began not long after we arrived, the intensity of the waves and wind slowly increased, the fire in the wood heater crackling and hissing in time with the wind.
So we talked. Almost in whispers.
When the night sky was clear, we looked at the Milky Way. With only a thin cloud-free strip, we woke in the middle of the night to see an orange half moon pop above the roiling sea. We took turns fleeing across the stone floor to put more wood in the fire before hurrying back to the warmth of the bed that faces the huge windows.
We did make a couple of brief forays into the digiverse: just far enough from the house to get a single bar from a cellphone tower and get assurances that the outside world was still intact and getting along just fine without us. I’m guessing that were we able to spend weeks instead of days in this quiet zone, those forays would become less frequent, more of an imposition that an opportunity.
The hiatus ended when the storm cleared and the pull of our other lives had us back on the road. But the essence of that dark and quiet space lingers, not unlike the aroma of rosemary on the sleeve of a sweater.
And we continue to embrace the social network of just we two at the end of each day: talking quietly, almost in whispers, about the day gone by.