I just spent a week in the woods neither wired nor wireless–as far as Internet connections–and it was preternatural. While my mother-in-love kept marveling at the fact that despite being in the deep woods we were texting, playing games on iPods, using e-readers, and writing on a laptop, I was going through withdrawal, plain and simple.
While we were not in a third-world country, we were roughing it, at least by America’s standards. In fact, when we arrived, my 16-year-old son said to me, “How can we call this a vacation?” because it was so not a luxurious condo on the beach. (I should be embarrassed by that, somehow.) Our van, in gear 2, carried us at a whopping 10 mph over the rocky and sandy road to my in-loves’ beloved cabin on the shores of the Withlacoochee River, the road rough enough to ensure you don’t travel it often. The cabin is a glorified one-room affair, with a mini kitchen, mini bathroom (shower so small I prefer to shower outside), mini-living room, and mini bedroom. You get the picture. All the necessities for the most part, but in mini and basic form. No telephone, no cable, no antenna, no dishwasher. Certainly no Internet access.
The largest part of the cabin is the screened porch and the deck, where we do most of our living, eating our meals and gathering for conversation. My husband and I also sleep on the porch, listening to the sound of the Great Outdoors and the occasional airboat, which were more occasional than usual due to the low water levels that made through-traffic nearly non-existent.
We daily awoke to a jubilation of sound–wild turkeys calling each other, the female racing past as if on a frantic search, the male strutting about with its feathers on full display. Sand hill cranes bellowing for their comrades; alligators grunting. We would watch for alligators, the little one that camped daily near the lily pads and the monster gator that, thankfully, sunbathed on the opposite bank of the river. We delighted in the evening visits by eight or so deer that timidly followed their path to the river to drink. We watched the sky painted by the sunset and the fluttering of moths and other flying insects as night drew close.
While we reveled in the clear blue skies and mild temperatures, we lamented the lack of rain, counting the inches the river receded day by day. We attempted to use the motorboat until we realized the river was more accessible in places via truck than boat. Canoeing was possible but limited. So we played baseball and horseshoes, shot BB guns at empty soda cans, and talked. We took in the Citrus County Racetrack one night, attended “world famous” flea markets, visited local shops,and stopped to purchase jellies and honey from a little roadside “honor system” stand. We spent our days eating and drinking and doing dishes by hand, the water turning our fingernails gray. (We drank bottled water.) We used hedge trimmers, rakes, and wheelbarrows powered by our own hands; physically moved sprinklers and otherwise labored when we felt like it.
The lazy spring days disappeared surprisingly fast. The doldrums delightful–except for that nagging urge to get online to check my email.
Yes, we had some bare-bones technology. Fleeting bars on a cell phones that allowed the rare call. Sporadic 3G that made texting possible but unreliable. My Kindle provided plenty of reading material, and my laptop allowed me to compose, if not publish. My mother-in-love was right to marvel at the incongruity of the high-tech life in the midst of rural, rustic simplicity.
But anxious and dissatisfied, we twice left that rustic paradise to park under a tree at McDonalds a half hour away in somewhat suburbia, to access free wifi, to receive and send emails until my archaic laptop battery died. Once I finished, I realized the time online held little significance.
Then, our week expired, we packed and cleaned and headed back to our real lives in the land of all things both wired and wireless.
To find that a hacker had sent questionable, viral links to the more than 1,000 people on my email contacts list. Someone, apparently, from Poland, accessed my account exactly one hour before I got home and made my arrival to all things wired and wireless, well, less than delightful. Suffice it to say, I am receiving emails from friends asking if I sent the emails, some with sexually explicit, at least by way of address, links, and others trying to sponge money off my well-meaning friends.
A quick change to a complicated password and other precautions, and I think I’ve evaded the hacker. I’m sure the episode has cured my Internet addiction.
I’m ready to return to the woods and get un-wired again.