You awaken to the sound of your customized morning alarm.
You grab your phone, peering inside the object in your palm — a window into a world of lights and motion. Icons decorate the top bar, hearts and like symbols display a connection to another person for less than a fraction of a second. An email from your sister connects you for 30 seconds as she tells you about that trip she took; an email from work reminds you that you need to respond to that other email from yesterday, and it also reminds you that you still have to take care of that pile on your desk. Another heart symbol appears above, connecting you with an old friend from high school for a fraction of a second.
You pull your head out of the abyss for a moment, and the room is dark. Quiet. The black-out curtains are still, and the sounds of morning traffic rumble in the background as the city begins to awaken. You sit up on the side of your bed, and peek back at your phone.
Someone shared a post of yours from last night, and several people have already liked it. One is that attractive girl who was a friend of a friend, but you’re not sure if they still hang out. Does that mean anything? Probably not. The other is from your brother-in-law. He likes everything you post. An email slides in front, covering the likes and the shares. It’s from a client, and he doesn’t seem happy. He never seems happy. Emails from him put that pit in your stomach and keep your brain locked in. Locked into what? I don’t know. Forgetting about it now is only going to help you through the day, so you push it to the side of your mind until you can address it at work. Another like. Someone comments on a photo: “Nice! Miss you <3” and you like their comment. That was nice of them, you think. You scroll down through pictures of new babies, alleged iron-clad relationships and you shuffle past the political memes. One catches your eye, and you type a response. You close the entire app before you press send. You know better than to engage in politics on social media.
You put the phone to the side of the bed. The room is quiet and nothing has stirred. You didn’t realize how quiet it really was here, and you glance at your phone. In a quiet room, that thing sure makes a whole lot of noise.
The daily routine comes next, sporadically interrupted by the tirade of likes, retweets, emails and text messages. As you brush your teeth, you think: I wonder what that client email was about… maybe he was finally happy with something I did? No, probably not. He never seems happy, and he probably isn’t starting now. And how did my sister find the time for that trip?
Oh, and today is Saturday.
You and your significant other are getting up early to head out for a hike. She has to work later in the day, but the trail is only twenty minutes away and she has been begging to do something outside since the winter passed and spring rolled around. It’s the middle of summer now, and this was the first chance you got. Well, the whole thing is only going to take three hours, and you have had three hours here and there dozens of times since spring rolled around. But it doesn’t seem like you ever really had three hours to hop outside.
In the car you go, and the two of you speed off to the national park nearby. Your phone buzzes as someone shares a politically charged meme you just couldn’t help but post. It’s reductive, but it’s funny too and if anyone gets offended by a picture then they need to grow up, you think. Several of your friends agree that it’s reductive but also funny, and your phone buzzes several times as they spread it across the internet. Another email from your sister — she forgot to add pictures from her trip. Another email as your coworker had to come in over the weekend, and they wanted to make sure that on Monday you–
Cell service cuts out.
No more signal. You and your girlfriend wind through distant country roads. You roll down the windows. Wind. Sun.
Finally, you find the mouth of the trail and park nearby in a somewhat unkempt, dirt parking lot. The nearby town is home to thousands upon thousands of cars, but only two others are here.
Your girlfriend exits the car, but something in your head is still reeling. You don’t know what it is, as you set foot out of the vehicle and onto the forest floor. Something is reeling. There is a muddy, unclear storm in your head and you’re not quite sure how to define it.
Maybe it’s that client. What was he going on about again? Maybe it was my sister — man, she really gets to travel a lot. I wish I could too. No, it must be that girl who liked my post. I hope my girlfriend doesn’t get weirded out by her liking my post, especially if she likes more. Wait, no she’s not the jealous type. But misunderstandings happen, I’ll make sure she doesn’t — man, when I get back I have to remember to shoot out a quick email to the boss and let him know about–
You pause for a moment and look around you. The trees are a brilliant green. So green, that you wonder if they are the same trees you pass in your daily commute. But of course they are, how could I not notice how green these things are?
The stream bubbles gently nearby. The sound of the water passing through the rocks and the sticks is the clearest sound you have heard in a long time.
“Come on!” Her voice is as clear and gentle as the stream itself, and you walk hand-in-hand between the trees. You walk up a hill until your thighs burn and your breath is labored. What an invigorating pain, you think.
As you pull one leg up onto a rock, you feel the phone in your pocket press against your leg. It’s nothing more than a voiceless brick now, good for little more than taking a couple of pictures.
You prop up the phone on a boulder, set the timer and awkwardly shuffle over a fallen tree to make it back to her in time. The picture snaps. You put the silent thing back in your pocket, and it does not protest. You realize that that picture is the only thing that you’ve done with the phone that’ll last past today. It’s the only thing that you actually wanted to do with it.
You push further up the trail. The leaves blow gently in the wind. The smell of the fresh, green and brown wild fills your nostrils and your head begins to feel like that creek — a brisk but clear body of water simply concerned with the path ahead.
A deer hoofs past you two, and you hear your significant other squeak in excitement. It’s the odd excitement of seeing a thing you both knew you could see, and that you have seen a hundred times before. You still smile and your heart still races at the sight of the gentle and powerful creature as it effortlessly bounces between the trees.
You reach the highest point around, and the trees break.
From there it feels like you can see the whole world. You can see only a fraction of what you could see if you flipped out your phone and scrolled through pictures of the most beautiful scenery the earth has to offer. But that is just a false window. This handful of rolling, wooded hills that might seem relatively boring in picture form — they are the entire world now. They stretch in their magnificence and grandeur and you feel as if you are the first one who has laid their naked eyes upon them.
Then the brick in your pocket snaps back to life. It has caught the hook of a fishing line of cell signal from up here, and it vibrates, and vibrates and vibrates. You begin to think of that client, of your sister, of who could be liking your posts and who might share it and if it was really worth the drama to post that picture and whether or not —
You pull it out and turn it off entirely.
You feel the wind. You feel the sun. You touch her hand and smile at the sight of her. Those things will be dealt with later, that’s just the world we live in. But for now — right in this moment — less is much, much more.
Images courtesy of Pixabay