Today was a forced “no electrical devices” day. Most of the area of the state I am in in Guatemala had no electricity because of maintenance work being done. Fortunately, we were given 24 hours notice, so I was able to plan ahead: preparing meals that didn’t require cooking or refrigeration, filling the bathtub with water (no electricity = no water, since the pumps would be down), and printing out hard copies of materials I needed for work.
At 7:30 a.m. the power went out. My little Guatemalan village got strangely quiet: the human-made noise – the music, the electric tools, the cell phones – were all silenced. All that was left were the sounds of nature – the wind rustling through the trees, the wide variety of birds singing, chirping and screeching, and the monkeys howling.
As I watched the family of monkeys that live in the trees in my and my neighbors’ yards, it struck me that today was no different for them than yesterday was. They hadn’t spent time letting clients know that they wouldn’t be available. They hadn’t had to cancel meetings or make arrangements to have a rerun play on their radio show. They hadn’t rushed around all morning getting as much done – while playing a few rounds of Words with Friends – before the power went out. They were just going about their day, eating leaves, business as usual.
I know that I am usually tethered to my phone and laptop. I do my best to take breaks from them, but often will take just a quick peek to check emails and texts, or to see how many likes that picture of the iguana in my yard has gotten.
Today was different. I couldn’t take peeks. I sat on my balcony with a pad of paper and pen to work, and was immediately transported back to summer days when I was a grammar school-aged kid. I would sit on my grandmother’s porch, put my feet up on one of the porch pillars, and read a book while shelling peas or snapping the ends off of green beans. I realized that I had almost forgotten the quiet, unending stillness of those days.
Today, for the first time since I got here, I relaxed fully into the rhythm of a jungle day.
I watched a small lizard make his way busily through the leaves in my yard. Who knew that they made so much noise when they walked? I made a game of trying to discern as many different bird calls as possible. I’m up to 11. Except for the rooster and the woodpecker, I have no idea what types of birds they are. That will have to wait for another power-free day. I discovered that I loved the sound of the wind going through the leaves of the tress and making some of the leaves fall almost as much as I love the sound of bamboo rustling in the wind.
Today I took my time with my work. Having to write instead of typing will do that. There’s a sacredness and a connection to the handwritten word that doesn’t exist on a computer screen and I found myself recognizing and acknowledging the power of each word and the unique style of each curve, line and dot as I wrote them. Because my pace was slowed, each word I wrote was far more deliberate and pointed.
Today I enjoyed the distractions of nature over the distractions of being constantly connected. I listened to my body and what she needed instead of powering through the day to get a task done, often at the detriment of my physical needs. (How many times have you gotten to the end of the work day and realized that you hadn’t even had time for a bathroom break? Me too.)
Today I drank plenty of water, sat in the sun, and gave my wonderful, amazing body that I often take for granted (and sometimes even neglect) what she needed to feel good and nurtured.
Today I had no sense of clock time. The day stretched out in front of me like an eternity.
Today, for the first time in a long time, I lived a fully connected life. Not connected like we think with our phones, computers, and internet, but truly connected to me and the world around me.
And today, when the power came back on at 6 p.m., I simultaneously expressed gratitude for the many gifts that electricity and our electronic technologies bring and vowed to incorporate more of the true connection I experienced today into my life.