The Captivity is Now Complete


The heat of last week was almost surreal, sixty-five and clear-skied, the exposed trunks of the leafless trees warming in the sun. Basking. As if they had a choice. Amazing how quickly the leaves fell this year. They came on late, then they were gone, like guests at a dinner party they didn’t really want to attend.

For a time I felt listless and out-of-sorts, thrown off-kilter by the atypical weather. I trudged from task-to-task, shucked down to a tee shirt, thought briefly of trading pants for shorts, but was too lazy to make the change. Now it is cooling again, and I feel the urgency of the season stirring my blood. It is good.

We reside for now in a single room above five cows and 1,000 bales of hay. When the wind blows, I hear the sliding doors of the barn thumping against the side of the building. We have no Internet, no landline, and a cell phone that works only from very particular locations outside our living quarters, so I make calls while leaning against the cows’ paddock fence. I check email every other day or so, sitting in my truck, parked in the parking lot of the nearest library, listening to the radio. Since I seem to be getting less email as I age, I’m thinking I can soon transition to once every third or fourth day and no one will be the wiser. I figure by the time I’m 50, I’ll be down to once a year.

I heard on the radio (while checking email, sitting in my truck, parked in the parking lot of the nearest library) that American teens now spend an average of nine hours each day on electronic devices. Since this does not include school, the true number is certainly a good bit higher. Nine hours a day, plus school… what can possibly remain? The captivity is now complete, and all the more effective for not being recognized as such.

Early this morning I went hunting with my son. We sat for a time on a mossed rock, watching the forest lighten around us.

PS: My friend Jesse just published a book of photographs, chronicling his adventures in the out-of-doors with his daughter, Clover. You can check it out here. Oh yeah: The book includes an essay I wrote. 

20 thoughts on “The Captivity is Now Complete”

  1. Curmudgeoner and curmudgeoner. I don’t know nuthin about nothin but I suspect its all in yer head, this captivity and whatnot, all in my stardust head. Eh, who knows?

  2. The warm weather had the opposite effect on me… I sat in on those cold days two weeks ago stitching and knitting and grumbling that I would just wait it out until Spring (this being the first time that I remember not looking forward to Winter). But the warm blast of last week had me scurrying outdoors renewed – stacking wood, building again, putting the gardens to bed, preparing for a blueberry burn I thought I would have to put off and rejoicing in the warmth. I needed it. All the white oaks shook their tailfeathers Friday in one fell swoop and I finally was ready to embrace those naked branches now that a little warmth had returned to my bones.

  3. I have missed your writings, but I do understand. Keep us posted on your building progress. Thanks for sharing so much of what is really important! Mary Ann

  4. We spent the day admiring antique steam tractors and other vintage farm equipment on the first real Autumn-like day in a while. Nothing like standing next to a steam powered saw mill to warm the soul. I have been feeling as unsettled as the weather and am glad to have the season come into itself a bit more. Thanks for the glimpse into your world today! And Happy (early) Birthday in case no post is forthcoming before then.

  5. I recently set up accounts on the iMac for my 15 year old and 12 year old daughters (and created email accounts for them.) I was a bit shocked that the default time limit on the iMac was six hours (SIX HOURS!) I gave them each an hour a day (which I think is too much…) This desk top is their only electronic device, but it still feels like such a waste of time to me.

  6. Hi Ben, long time no type. I am reading this in the library parking lot (!) on our only de(vice), a smashed screen, hand me down iPad. My husband and I decided 6 months ago, after a move, to not have internet at home and since my husband refuses to carry a cell phone and I just last month got a (non-smart) cell phone that I can text on for the first time, we are relatively speaking, fairly disconnected from what would be possible to be connected to were we internetedly connected. Anyway, what I wanted to note, was how sort of difficult it was to actively choose to disconnect in this way. When I got the brand new phone, the model was so unpopular they didn’t have it in stock and had to special order it. It only costs $10 more a month to get the internet 24/7 above and beyond what we pay for a land line and cell phone, bundled by the same provider. I am part of homeschooling and unschooling groups on FB that I can’t keep up with because I am not accessing the FB pages as regularly as I could be. Obviously this is all our choice, and I am not complaining, just noting how weird it seems to have to work hard to actively connect in the way we all used to. I am so grateful I remember what it was like before email, cell phones, and all else. Grateful. Thanks again for your good words. Cheers.

  7. This is chilling. I fight the pull of electronics, and it really is a pulling, coaxing, pleading sort of energy. “Come check–just look–maybe you should do–” all from the screens around me. I don’t know what the answer is.

  8. Happy birthday! So you’re 44. That means you were born in 1971, “the year of the golden pig”. There’s something funny in there but I’m not going to root it out. Anyway, have a good one. And many happy returns.

  9. Poignant and unfortunately relatable. Thank you for reminding me to get outside. An eery reminder of our modern day society.

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