Why Do This To Myself?

Working in D.C. is an experience. It’s a vibrant, dynamic city full of people rushing to and from work by bus, metro, bike, or car. Maintaining the hectic pace keeps me on my toes. I love it, but everyone needs the occasional break. A few years ago I made the decision to spend a weekend alone at my uncle’s cottage on the Chesapeake Bay.

I love the old cottage that sits surrounded by bay, pine trees, and marsh, but before that weekend I’d only spent time there with family. There are usually so many of us that between kids squealing, television blaring, and dishes clanking, it’s no quieter than Pennsylvania Avenue during rush hour. I’d never experienced the place alone and my plan was to leave behind work, phone, and television for a long weekend of solitude. I was excited to abandon “civilization”. Or was I? Spend a weekend alone with no one and no technology?

Why do this to myself?

Unpacking was easy. I threw one small bag onto the bed, turned off my cell phone, vowed not to use the television, and sat to watch waves roll on the bay. Minutes later I reached for my phone. Surely someone had called, emailed, or sent a text. No, I wasn’t to check, I remembered. I put down the phone and reached for the television remote. Surely there was something in the news I needed to hear. No, I wasn’t to check that either.

I swatted mosquitoes on the way to my car. I’d decided to lock my phone and the remote in the glove compartment so as to avoid temptation. Once back inside I looked around the little cottage where usually kids laughed, television blared, and someone chatted on a phone. Now – dead silence. I twiddled my thumbs and wondered whether there might be a radio around. I resisted the urge to search and continued to twiddle and stare at the room.

Why do this to myself?

Bored, I went to bed early and braced myself for a dull morning – but it dawned beautifully. Without an alarm clock to shock me into awareness I slept until pink rays of diluted sunrise streamed into the bedroom. I sat up and looked towards the water. A smattering of clouds along the horizon gave the light something to play with, making the sight all the more spectacular.

Unable to check my phone, I walked to the beach to see a startled heron poke at small fish just out of reach. Knowing I couldn’t watch the morning news, I walked a bit further and witnessed an osprey snatching a silvery fish from the salt water. Further on my walk two bald eagles watched me from high in a dead pine at the edge of the marsh. Sun bleached driftwood, tiny shells, and horseshoe crabs were here and there along the way.

That evening, unable to check email, I walked down the sandy road leading from the cottage. Deer hidden in cattails along the swampy ditch grunted before they disappeared with graceful leaps. A fox paused while crossing the road and sunset hitting its reddish coat made it the color of fire. As it bolted towards the marsh, a bluebird swooped down from a nearby tree to pick up a cricket for dinner. That evening I again went to bed early, not from boredom, but with the satisfaction of a good day and the expectation of another.

Over the next few days I fell effortlessly into the cycle of sunrise and sunset. Changes on the bay were hourly as wind molded the waves and sunlight gave them glitter. When there were no waves at all the bay was majestically peaceful. A thunderstorm on the second evening made for an unbelievable show over the water and I’d never truly listened to rain until that night. What a magical few days I’d had.

At the end of the weekend I packed reluctantly and realized I’d not thought about my phone anymore. What had I done with it? And where was the remote that was usually on the table? Ah, yes, now I remembered. As I checked drawers to make sure I’d packed everything I’d brought I saw a radio. I laughed as I tossed it back. Who would need one of those?

I left the cozy cottage and drove down the sandy road heading home. Along the way, half hidden by a blanket of trumpet vines heavy with orange flowers, a deer stared at me for a moment. She flicked her ears to shoo mosquitoes then turned and melted easily into the woods. Her fawn followed but looked at me over its speckled shoulder before melting away just as easily as its mother. They were lucky, I thought, being parts of the rhythm and peace that was this place.

Once on the paved road I turned on my phone and it buzzed incessantly with incoming messages. The car radio had been on when I’d arrived and it now blasted bad songs and bad news. I remembered things at work I needed to handle, deadlines were now closer, and there would be meetings to attend. Tomorrow I would make a tedious work commute before the sunrise I would miss, then battle emails and phone calls and not be home before the sunset I would also miss.

Somewhere back there by the water a fawn would follow its mother, an osprey would watch for fish, and sun sparkling on the waves of the bay would go unseen because I would be back at work surrounded by schedules and technology.

Why do this to myself?

Stuart M. Perkins

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275 Comments

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275 responses to “Why Do This To Myself?

  1. JC

    Nature is always present waiting to take us away from this madness. We need just reach out…

  2. I so enjoyed your very honest and yet tender story. Beautifully written too. Thanks for liking my post

  3. Just beautiful & refreshing! Thanks for following https://thiabasilialicona.wordpress.com/. I’m following you as well. 🙂

  4. Such a great description of how we let the rush of life getting in the way of us actually living! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Thank you for liking “Twilight” and for following my blog. I think a lot of people can relate to this wonderful story. Many of us have become slaves to technology. We feel uneasy if there is no noise from the TV or the radio in the background, or we cannot check our email and cell phone messages.
    I am happy that I was able to stop watching a lot of television, but now I think I am a WordPress addict! I enjoy blogging, but I think I spend a little too much time checking my stats and thinking about my blog posts. I need to spend a little more time outside. Getting back in touch with nature does help me disconnect from these technology-driven distractions. 🙂

  6. Ash

    we all need the break every now and then..now you are tempting me to do the same..

  7. I am jealous. I have not done something like that in a while. It is important to schedule this kind of time for yourself once in a while. I really enjoyed this. It was extremely well written. Thank you for following.

  8. Reblogged this on bertpowers and commented:
    This is good.

  9. great post, Stuart. I’m blessed to live in a rural area only a half-hour commute to work. It’s nice to get away from the electronics now and then and remember what life really is about.

  10. Lovely story followed by an excellent question. A similar question to one I asked myself about 8-9 years ago. I packed up and moved to the south of France and a small rural village… need I say more? 😉

    Thank you for choosing to follow one of my blogs. I hope you continue to enjoy the posts. Léa

  11. Its better to answer the call of nature than a cell phone, nature is always calling us back to where we came from. This was such a well written piece that speaks poetically and frankly. I really enjoyed reading! Thanks for the like as well 🙂

  12. Jane Thorne

    My peace is often found in nature and I felt at one with your words Stuart Glad you had a few days restoration. x

  13. Jane Thorne

    Thank you for finding and ‘liking’ my blog, because now I have found you. x

  14. About 30 years ago, I went to college in DC, Howard University, and while there I filled my PE requirement by taking a class in horseback riding, which was offered in Silver Spring. I’m a New Yorker, and grew up in the suburbs outside the city, so to me, at that time, it was as close to countryside as I’d seen, and I loved it. Since then, I’ve lived in rural Arizona, and while I don’t love Arizona itself, I did love watching sunsets from the quiet of our front yard. Now we’re in Colorado and discussing moving again, to Minnesota. Over the years, I’ve learned that I’m happiest living rural, but within hailing distance of a city so I can have the best of both worlds. It comes as a shock to my friends.

  15. This makes me want to cry. I crave our fishing spot where I can get back in touch with the sounds of frogs on the Gulf and birds flying by while dolphins are dancing in the waters nearby. I crave the thrill of catching a fish without any other distraction and to have a deeper connection to people.

    You’re right – why do we do this to ourselves?

  16. That was a great read that I completely empathize with and thank you for reading my blog too. I would live in that cottage forever if I could!

  17. We have a tiny cabin about two hours north from where we live. It’s a quarter of the size of the home I live in. I’m always amazed that even though I have hardly any conveniences, I love every minute of it.

    I can certainly understand why you love that cottage. I love my tiny cabin.

    Oh, and thanks so much for following my blog.

  18. Reconnecting with nature is something we all need to do often. Hope you have been back many times since to maintain that inner peace.

  19. An amazing write up full of vivid description enabling the reader to visualize the narration in an audio-video style and all the while yearning for a similar ‘sunrise and sunset’ kind of break! Hope others follow your example and renew the contact with Mother Nature including myself whenever possible!
    Thanks for following and keep contributing such wonderful blogs!

  20. Stuart, Thank you for dropping by Garment of Praise. I followed you back here and enjoyed this post enormously. I’ve visited DC, but really would not like the pace there. I live in the middle of Kansas where the pace is slower most of the time. The electronics, however, are ubiquitous.

  21. Amy

    Just beautiful, Stuart. I wish I could do that as well. It takes a lot of willpower, but I’d love to experience a tech free weekend.

  22. Love your story, it was beautifully written!. Technology “makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will.”

  23. I would have said that you do it just to get a break but frankly, which such a picturesque description, I guess it must be one of those places, that you want to go again and again to just realise ghow beautiful life is and how it about stuff much more than a few pressing guidelines and incessant phone calls

  24. This is beautiful! The times are few and far between when I find myself in this kind of situation, and it’s surprising how jarring no access to technology can be. And how fragmented it makes our lives. Yet somehow, it is always too easy to put off a technology-free retreat…thanks for the inspiration!

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