Off The Grid
August 22nd, 2012

Trading internet access, a cellphone connection, and electricity for a paddle slicing through the water, the crackle of a campfire, and the chatter of central-propane lighting in a cabin is not necessarily easy at first. We tend to be very “wired.” We keep our cellphones close in case somebody special or important calls or texts. We check our inboxes to see, well, who knows what will end up in it. Sometimes my inbox is extremely functional. Sometimes it’s just full of opportunities of which somebody my age really shouldn’t need to avail himself.

We all take electricity for granted — until a thunderstorm, snowstorm, or perhaps an unfocused driver causes it to briefly disappear and our lights, TVs, etc. to go dark. Even in remote locations in the jungles of Asia I now see shacks with electricity — and often a TV! So, no, it’s not necessarily easy to give up these comforts of the electrical, internet, and cellphone grids, but it can be extremely relaxing if we do.

I’m just back from a trip off-the-grid in the backwoods of Maine. The purpose of the trip was to relax with some extremely special people (whom I now miss more than a reasonable person could ever miss “the grid”). I wondered at first what emails were piling up while I wasn’t monitoring my computer. I wondered if the automated response sent to emails that arrived in my unattended inbox would frustrate people accustomed to quick personal responses. (I don’t actually know the answer to that, but nobody sent back a nasty email telling me to get my behind back onto the grid!) I quickly found it very relaxing to be off-the-grid.

Although I have to say that even off-the-grid isn’t truly always off the grid. With the luck of the Irish and the balance of a gymnast, one could stand on an Adirondack chair (albeit not in the Adirondacks), hold one’s cellphone up to skies, and sometimes receive an elusive signal that although weak would occasionally work. I saw it done, but I didn’t try it. I was more than happy to embrace the lack of communication. (Or maybe I was just afraid of falling off of the chair and into the fire.)

There was some photography on this trip (including tripods that made it out of their bags and were actually used), and after having returned home late Monday night I’ve downloaded photographs off the card and onto my backup platform. I haven’t gone through them yet. Those who have photographed with me know that I tend to let some time pass before working on my photographs. I just pretend that they’re slides that I’ve had to send out to be developed — like I had to do for years. I did, however, have my iPhone in the cabin. So when the light looked interesting and/or the mood struck I also got it out and created a few memories. The one above and these below are some of those memories. All were created by walking just a few steps out of the cabin — at more-or-less the same time of day. Those who know me can probably guess that it wasn’t morning. :-)


7 Responses to “Off The Grid”

  1. Andrée says:

    Lovely, Jeffrey! The photos and the mood, both… Plus an unexpected nostalgia trip – I have such happy memories of discovering wilderness canoe trips in Ontario, back in the dark ages before the net, email, cellphones, digital cameras etc. But I remember the same sense of peace and delight, just a small group of people, a few canoes, no engines or other noisemakers, and the gorgeous landscape. I can’t stop smiling as I recall those trips — and the way I would just about go through the roof when the telephone rang after I got home from a week ‘off the grid’. Thank you!

  2. Marjan L says:

    Being ‘of the grid’ is great now and then. I agree. Enjoying the space and people around you without the ‘distraction’ of phone calls, e-mails and everything.
    But I am in contact with some people, only ‘wired’, because I can’t visit them very easily. So that’s the reason the ‘of the grid’ time shouldn’t be too long. I love both worlds; try to ‘mix’ them as much as possible!

  3. Eli R. says:

    You certainly have a gift for creating culinary masterpieces in cabins! Can’t wait till the next time :-)

  4. leonie wise says:

    I’m flabbergasted. Colour Jeffrey… Colour?!

    I remember you remarking in Oaxaca (more than once) – “have you considered what this would look like in black & white?” ;)

    All that aside, I am a big fan of “off the grid” and I’m happy you found some time to do it. I’m also glad you came back to tell us about it… I was beginning to wonder where you were!

  5. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Andrée, that sounds divine. Was that in the Algonquin?

    Marjan, yeah, I’m not suggesting that everybody move to a cabin in the woods and start writing a manifesto. However, if any of you have something important to say, then please do.

    Eli, I loved cooking in your little spot on the sea. Loved it!

    Leonie, yep, colour. I didn’t even try them in black and white. :-)

  6. Andrée says:

    Oh, it was! Yes, Algonquin Provincial Park, the perfect place to discover wilderness canoe tripping. And another trip in Killarney Prov Park the following year. Also lovely, though Algonquin was just magic.

  7. Marjan L says:

    Andree, I think I’ve also canoed on the lake in Algonquin National Park a few years ago.
    An amazing experience!! Oh, and they almost forgot to pick us up again from the wilderness at the end of the day……

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