I noticed a change in my behavior that weekend in the woods. I had noticed the crisp air and the clear pale blue sky that sat above the tops of the tall green treetops. I had seen every lizard that hid in the dark cool cracks on fallen logs where dead trees gave way for new life to live and find shelter, and I could truly appreciate the thousands of dazzling white lights that nestled themselves against the black abyss that was our camp’s ceiling. I would look at all that surrounded me, and when I glanced at my fellow campers to discuss nature’s wonder, I saw faces glued to iPhones, eyes looking at front facing cameras, and fingers tapping impatiently as their owners waited for Wi-Fi.
I noticed that I had missed out on so many Snap stories that weekend, and realized that I didn’t really mind as much. I was in the woods, and not having a phone with me kept my focus there. I realized that the best time to have your phone stolen was right before a camping trip in the woods.
When I returned to “civilization” coworkers, family and friends assumed that I would soon grow crazy from being disconnected from the world. I remembered that I had also studied abroad for a month and only used my phone for messaging and video conversations when there was free Wi-Fi available. I told myself that I had learned to live with minimal distractions from the computer in my pocket, and I knew that I would be fine without the device again.
The day after I had unpacked all of my camping gear from my dusty car in the parking lot, I found myself at a car wash. I had paid for a full wash and detail in the hopes of alleviating my vehicle from the grimier parts of nature, and sat down in the waiting area outside under the covered patio.
A few seconds after sitting down I noticed two pigeons gently land on the ground next to someone’s feet. I watched as they bobbed their heads walking around the car wash patrons’ summer sandals. Both birds appeared to be limping on their right legs. I looked on as they both continued to move and bob with a slight hop.
There were two birds, but only three feet between the two of them, which explained why one of them was hopping around with a limp, and so I glanced at the other one. It was then that I noticed a small twig sticking out from the bottom of the bird’s foot. The pigeon looked at me in my eye and paused for a moment. He tilted his head to the side as he continued to meet my gaze.
He slowly began to approach me, and when he arrived at my feet I managed to step on the twig and pull it off from the bird’s foot. The bird looked a little panicked as it flew away, a little startled at the fact that I had not only noticed him, but that I had helped him with the giant splinter in his foot. I looked up at the other car wash customers quietly sitting on the patio with their faces glued to their phones without a clue of what had just occurred. No one had seen the birds, and a few of the customers had missed the signal the car washers gave to the crowd at the patio when a car was finished.
Being present in the world and disconnected from the world online had some sort of therapeutic and dharmic recharge that guided my focus away from distractions and back to the important parts of life. I had focused on the sounds that my feet made as it met the ground below me rather than the sounds that usually blared into my eardrums from my earphones. My roommates and I had to get up and talk to each other instead of calling or texting, and I was forced to really listen and pay attention to the conversations, the people, and the situations that surrounded me. I had spent my week without a phone, as it traveled to my apartment, in a blissfully calming peace. All I could hope for after my new phone arrived was that I could continue to take some time, occasionally, for myself and unplug from the wired world.