I had just returned from a two-week long trip to Buffalo, New York. The trip was meant to serve a few purposes, among them being a time to rest from work, a change of scenery, and for my partner to finally visit his friends and family after the pandemic started. Additionally, and the reason I'm writing a blog post about this, I wanted to establish a habit of sketching the places I visit.
After landing and having a day of rest, we spent the first few days of that trip in a cabin in the middle of the woods with my partner and two of our friends. It had the essentials but no phone signal nor WiFi. It was very much the 21st-Centry version of being isolated. At first, I was a little alarmed. How do I contact my family? How will I keep in touch with friends and colleagues? How can I maintain my detrimental online browsing habits?
I didn't expect this to happen, so I didn't prepare for it. But I'm an adult, I can handle a few days without connection--it'll probably be good for me anyway, I thought to myself.
It became apparent pretty quick how often I pulled out my phone to look at social media outlets. This was especially noticeable the morning I woke up, when I usually check my phone first thing after waking up. Not being able to connect, I remembered I had some eBooks and digital magazines on my phone from my library. I filled that message-checking habit void with reading PleinAir Magazine (not sponsored)--which I may add, I enjoyed far more than I ever did browsing social media or newsfeeds. It's now a habit I've maintained weeks later.
Later that day, one of our friends--who had cell phone signal--turned on the WiFi-Hotspot on his phone so we could check message and contact family. It's been a whole day since I've been online. What did I miss? My phone connected to our friend's phone, the notifications came in, and...
You know, maybe overconnectivity isn't great for me.
There was nothing negative in any of my message or social media feeds, but in the short time I didn't have signal, I actually enjoyed being disconnected. Unavailable. Nothing but me, my friends, the cabin, and the woods.
It was a nostalgic feeling. It took me back to a time before everyone had a computer in their pocket. Don't get me wrong--I'm not going to be bitter and proclaim "It was so much better back in my day! Before Cell Phones, Facebook, and Twitter!" because I don't have that opinion and that attitude has been pretty silly throughout the various eras of advancing consumer tech. And I remember how I felt about this sort of thing when I was growing up. I would've given up my leg for a computer I could take everywhere I go. But... I think that happend, I wouldn't have those moments where I got lost within my mind. Those long car rides, those school nights where I was up passed my bedtime, those summer mornings hours before I crawled onto my desktop computer. I spent those moments lost in my head, dreaming up stories and drawing. It's those sort of moments that brought me to where I am today. How would things be different if I had a phone, then?
I don't know.
And obviously I'm not about to preach to throw your phone away. That's also very silly. Our phones are fabulous tools that help us with essential tasks every day and that have connected so many people--for better or for worse. And the "for worse" moments shouldn't spoil it for the "for better" moments, but we seriously need to learn how to live better with them. Whatever that means depends on who you are, so I'll end this train of thought on this note. But I will stress the word I already used, and I want whoever reads this to really think about it and how it may apply to you: overconnectivity.
Wasn't this about sketching?
Well, yes! All that rambling is about sketching! With no phone signal, there's no social media to cycle through and get me hooked for precious minutes out of my day. My library books were great, but I can only read them for so long.
So there I was, out in the woods, with my modest sketching supplies and no connectivity--just good friends--to distract me.
Later that day, I tried again.
At the cabin and throughout the rest of the trip, I read a couple books about urban sketching, and was delighted by the pen and ink drawings I saw many urban sketchers make. Inspired by that and my previous attempts to sketch, the day I caught my first fish, I made a quick drawing of the lake shore to celebrate. I was without my watercolors but was with a pen and small sketchbook.
While this may be the anti-climactic end to this blog post, it's the beginning for my sketching pursuits. It'll be interesting to see where I am in regards to sketching in a year from now! ...hopefully that won't be when my next blog post will be published!