There is a Mary Oliver poem that asks

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


It’s an important question, and one that I sometimes forget to ask. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I let too much of my one life pass me by unnoticed while I’m sitting in front of a screen. Tammy Strobel at Rowdy Kittens has several great posts about taking a digital sabbatical. I hadn’t noticed, until I read her post, how much of my day screen time eats up. My husband and I don’t have cable, or watch TV. But we do have Netflix for movies, we own a computer each, and then there’s the Wii we got for Christmas last year:

Beyond all that, there are the temptations of e-mail and facebook, and of course this blog, which I invest a good bit of time into. I read other people’s blogs, too…all the ones on my blogroll. Much of my schoolwork happens in front of my laptop, and my classes include a fair number of powerpoint and video presentations. Long story short?

A lot of my life takes place in front of a screen. What would I do, I’ve been wondering lately, with an unplugged weekend? Would it be very different from my usual weekend routine?

This weekend I decided to find out. I took a whole weekend off, not only from my blog and the internet, but also from schoolwork or movies. I checked my e-mail a couple of times, and we had Pandora playing in the background while we were cooking today, but that was just about it until I sat down to write this post, well into Sunday evening. Here’s what I did this weekend instead of sitting in front of a screen:

  • I spent Friday afternoon volunteering on campus for my department’s interview day, and the evening downtown with some of my own soon-to-graduate classmates, celebrating the successful event.
  • On Saturday, I went to the roller derby for the first with my husband and our friends – we saw the Carolina Rollergirls win a homegame! It’s something I would never have thought to do, by my friend Sarah wanted us to check it out with her, and I really enjoyed it!
  • We went out for dinner and margaritas at our favorite Mexican restaurant, where I had the best potato and cheese enchilada of my life.
  • We played a closely contested game of Scrabble…and I won! Also learned the hard way, by challenging it, that “li” is in fact an accepted word in the Official Scrabble dictionary. Check out our extra fancy customized Scrabble board:

(To make one of your own, use a letter tile to trace squares on images from magazines, playing cards, albums, etc. Cut the squares out and affix them with Mod Podge to all of the blank squares on your Scrabble board. That’s all there is to it!)

  • Last night I finished reading a book – and I mean real fiction, not homework! It was Andrea Levy’s Small Island, about WWII-era Britain and Jamaica, and I enjoyed it tremendously.
  • My husband and I cleaned the house and gave our dog a bath. He’s nice and clean, and so are our kitchen and laundry for the upcoming week!
  • Today I walked to the grocery store instead of driving – all this free time and the beautiful weather inspired me.
  • This afternoon, I baked cupcakes with my friend Emily – we made mocha cupcakes with coffee icing. They’re cooling now, and they smell DELICIOUS.

  • Tonight, we’re grilling portabella mushrooms on the back deck. We had to take advantage of the unseasonably warm February evening, and of getting to spend another evening with our friends. Some of these friendships have lasted nearly a decade, through college and sharing a house and moving out to get married, and even moving across the state together for graduate school. I love them dearly, and spending this weekend with them has been the greatest part of the digital sabbatical.

While we wait for the grill to heat up, we’re all plugged back in – Emily is doing homework on one computer, I’m writing on the other, and the guys are having a tennis tournament on the Wii Fit. I’m glad to be working on my blog, because I love writing, and it’s something I tend to do on the weekends, when I have more free time. But I’m more aware now that we’re all looking at screens instead of at one another, and the only conversation taking place is the guys yelling over their hard fought tennis game. This is indeed our one wild and precious life – I’m glad we spent the better part of this weekend, at least, tuned in to each other instead of the TV or the internet.

Technology can be hugely beneficial. I can skype with my best friend in Romania and talk for an hour, free of charge. I can sit in on lectures by experts across the country, or half a world away. As much good as technology brings into my life, though, the break from it was lovely enough that I’m planning on taking another one soon. Maybe next time I’ll even read some more Mary Oliver:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?


And you? What will you do with a weekend unplugged, to savor your own wild and precious life?


3 thoughts on “Life…unplugged

  1. We spent the better part of the weekend unplugged, too. Damn computer virus! The upside is that my repair guy added a gig of memory and really sped things up.

    • Clearly, the computer-gods wanted you to join your firstborn in taking a digital sabbatical. Although I’ve never thought of you as someone who wastes a lot of time online!

  2. Pingback: Our Outer Banks Roadtrip | Project Minify

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