Vacation mode, new/old
Blogging will be light for awhile as my family and I are away on vacation. We are now among the 10 people gathered for one of the regular summer reunions of my Dreamboat's family. We meet at their cabin on an island in one of the Great Lakes. This special hideaway-getaway place has been in the family for 70 years.
When the property was first bought back in the 1930's there was an outdoor pump here (no inside running water) and no electricity, just kerosene lamps. There was an outhouse (no indoor toilet), an icebox, and only a fireplace for heat. The first, second, and third generations made upgrades over the years so now we "summer people" of the 21st-century are able to enjoy indoor toilets, hot showers, microwaved snacks and gourmet homecooked meals coming out of the kitchen, indoor heaters, refrigerators, a clothes dryer, and even television and DVD players. Thanks to Ebay, there are some snazzy new oriental floor rugs. The fourth generation gets to vacation here without really "roughing it" but can easily visualize the past while hearing the stories of what it was like in "the old days."
This year we learned the U.S. post office on the island will no longer be holding our mail care of "General Delivery." We don't put up a mailbox for daily delivery here as no one is here at the cabin for most of the year. The post office will still hold our mail if we pay $20 a year for a p.o. box at the post office (basically, charging us for General Delivery services previously rendered for free). The charge is minimal, but the developing consensus among the family is that maybe we don't need the U.S.P.S. at all any more. We have email, and the FedEx and UPS trucks deliver to our cabin door. We could get a computer color printer here in two days from Amazon for $40 total, if we wanted.
Oh brave new world, that has such consumers in't.
This year we also learned that the local cable TV company went kaput. Probably driven out of business by the satellite dish. We can only get one fuzzy channel on the TV now. (I remember previous summers, when some of us watched afternoon soap operas, and the infamous Ollie North hearings). But no problem--among the 10 people here there are five laptop computers. My Dreamboat brought a modem and has set up a cabin wi-fi network. For entertainment we show each other stuff from our computers or YouTube, or share photos or video (displayed on the TV) from our digital cameras. My son brought his huge library of DVDs to keep himself entertained until the Harry Potter novel arrives. Instead of sitting around the cabin together reading books, we now sit around looking up stuff on the internet. In between sailing, swimming, cooking, eating, walking, jogging, and kayaking, of course.
I organized daily walks of about a mile for those of us of all ages interested in getting some regular exercise. My sister-in-law brought some plastic bags along and we ended up becoming a roadside litter pickup crew, which was a not-unpleasant novelty for me. Our walks were slowed down considerably, but the constant bending over to pick up discarded cigarette filter tips is great for the waistline. I can't decide whether I feel more virtuous for doing a good "green" deed for the people of the island, or more silly for wasting my time on something so irrelevant in the larger scheme of things (surely if we combined our brainpower for the same amount of time I'm sure we could come up with something to better benefit the island than picking up cigarette butts). I decided to regard our trash duty as a sort of modern-day Amish/Quaker/Zen-like exercise in humbling oneself in a simple, plain, yet communal way to serve others. So what if it's mostly symbolic? (We are not making any real dent in the accumulated trash farther off the road's shoulder and into the poison ivy.) Nothing wrong with symbolism. As long as I wash my hands afterwards.
Things are changing and we're feeling our way. I was reluctant to bring my own laptop computer, as I know how addictive it is and I didn't want to invite distractions from family time or radical changes in the kind of vacations here in the great outdoors I've always loved. But time and change march on and no one can stop them. I brought my laptop. It's handy for looking up unfamiliar vocabulary words as my daughter reads Anne of Green Gables. It's handy for looking up the local weather forecast. And I find myself drawn into blogging and checking email and websites during the day instead of reading Edmund Morris' Theodore Rex.
Progress or retardation? You can be the judge.