In our interconnected world it is becoming increasingly rare to find oneself in a place where there is no digital connection. Yet I spent the past weekend in precisely such a place.
My in-laws built a cabin in the woods in Northern Michigan (near Kalkaska) in 1960. It resides on the banks of the Little Manistee River, a beautiful little river that winds like a snake through the middle of the state and that is home to brown and brook trout with the occasional rainbow trout lurking as well. It is well known to fly fishing enthusiasts and is a great river for kayaking and canoeing with family and friends.
I’ve been enjoying this special place for 25 years. Sadly, we only get there once a year, but we have been visiting with the same group of family and friends for that entire stretch of time.
My smart phone alerts me that I have no service almost 30 minutes before I arrive. Deep in the woods and many miles away from anything that resembles civilization, the cabin awaits. There is no cable, no dish, no TV and certainly no wireless service or internet. There is no landline. A few years ago, a radio/CD player was added so that on weekends like the one recently past, you can listen to the World Series if you choose. It is the only technology added in the past 50 years.
What happens in this most unusual place in the middle of nowhere? Interestingly enough, connection the old fashioned way happens. We talk. And talk and talk. Storytelling comes alive. Belly laughs become contagious. We cook together. We eat together, drink wine together and connect in a way that may be becoming a lost art form. There is an old sign that hangs above a doorway that says, “to enjoy cabin life, do your share.” And so the old rituals begin as soon as we arrive. Someone gathers kindling, another the firewood. Groceries are put away, gear gets distributed to the proper places, the grill gets hauled out of the pole barn, fishing rods are prepared.
Everyone brings actual magazines, newspapers and other analog periodicals and we peruse them together and share thoughts and ideas. I actually was dimwitted enough to bring several recent issues of HBR and Fortune. They went absolutely untouched as the idea of bringing work to this setting was silently and unanimously rejected.
So while I spend 363 days a year generally engaged around the idea of the intersection of work and life, I admit that these three days a year in the middle of nowhere have become increasingly special as much as anything, because it is so damn rare anymore.
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