Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Unplugging: Its Joys and Challenges

(This article was originally published in September 2011. It was inadvertently left out of this blog.)

Can you be content without your internet connection? What about your cell phone? Or electricity? Hurricane Irene brought many of us an opportunity to ponder these questions.

As I write this, our electricity has just been restored after 3 days without. Since it’s summertime, it wasn’t so bad, as we didn’t have to worry about heat. However, with electric-powered utilities – stove, hot water heater, everything else – we had an interesting time “going without.”

While I’m not thrilled about the amount of food we had to throw away, the power outage wasn’t been unendurable. On Sunday, it felt good to hunker down indoors and wait out the heavy winds. On Monday, which was calm and sunny, there was plenty of yard work to do. On Tuesday, we just tried to keep busy. It’s a good thing it was nice out! Wednesday morning was when it came back on. Hallelujah!

The power outage has me thinking about Being Connected, and how much I rely on it. Not having an internet connection revealed just how much time I spend online. My laptop, which stays on all day, is set to check for email constantly. I can’t tell you how many times I glanced at it, looking for the telltale red dot . . . before remembering that no mail could come through. Yes, I admit it: having grown accustomed to constant connectivity, and I did feel somewhat insecure without it.

I charged my laptop fully before the storm began, and thus I spent all of Sunday working (till the battery went dead). A friend teased me, suggesting that a power loss could be considered an opportunity NOT to work. Why not, instead, take a day off and relax? Not so easy for someone like me. (I admit: I take refuge in my work – it’s more concrete than the rest of my life, which like everyone’s, can be messy.)

But Monday, with no chance of using the computer until I could find a place to recharge it, I was open to other options. Our yard was completely covered with green – pine branches, oak leaves, giant fallen maple branches. My morning class had been cancelled, my son was with his father, so I had no other responsibilities. I grabbed a rake and got busy.

It was a pleasant two hours. I could have put on my iPod but I opted to enjoy the quiet and the rhythmic scrape of the rake. Neighbors would walk by, and we’d discuss how we were coping with the power outage, but for the most part I was solitary. When I was done, the yard looked great, and I felt good for having spent the morning doing something physical.

A few months ago, I changed my cell service, and had the option of getting a smart phone with a data plan, so I could be connected to the internet at all times. I thought it better not to. While I would love to have internet access at my fingertips anytime and anywhere, I was reluctant. The $30 cost per month was part of it, but really, it was the threat of having no unplugged time whatsoever that turned me off.

I used to carry my cell phone with me everywhere, just in case. But now I don’t. There isn’t much in life that can’t wait an hour. As fond as I am of the immediacy the internet and cell phones provide, I think it’s important to spend some time (voluntarily!) unplugged every day. There is something to be said for adopting a slower pace.

The following are suggestions for ways to enjoy some time unplugged. Most of them involve being outdoors. I recommend that you leave your iPod at home, and if you bring your phone, do so just for safety’s sake, and not to entertain yourself.

Go For A Bike Ride -- Take a spin down a scenic road and absorb the sounds of nature around you. Enjoy the view. Breathe in the fresh air. Feel the joy of propelling yourself forward on two wheels. The South Shore is a gorgeous place to explore by bicycle.

Take A Walk In The Woods – We have so many enchanting nature preserves and conservation parcels on the South Shore. Select one, and spend an hour just rambling. Bring a friend and have an uninterrupted conversation – or just enjoy each other’s company in silence. Bring a child and make some discoveries – find out what’s under that log, or who lives in that tree.

Go To The Beach. The water tends to be quite warm around here in September. But even if you’re not inclined to swim, you can take off your shoes and go for a walk along the shoreline, or explore tide pools, or a jetty, or the wrack line. Or just sit and watch seagulls, and listen to the sounds of the surf.

Go For A Paddle. The North and South Rivers, the Green Harbor River, the Jones River, and their tributaries offer quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of life. Out on the river in a canoe or a kayak, you can enjoy a slower pace, with plenty of time for contemplation. Take a guided trip, or just explore on your own.

Take A Yoga Class – NSRWA’s outdoor Yoga at the River’s Edge classes end for the season on September 10, but the annual program resumes next June. In the meantime, you might try an indoor class (no cell phones allowed!). Take some time to tune in with yourself and unwind.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein
September 2011

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com.

Canoe Rental on the North River

(This article was originally published in September 2012. It was inadvertently left out of this blog.)

In mid-September, a high school friend was visiting from California. In planning her visit, she asked if we could go canoeing on the North River. I peeked at my calendar and was delighted to see that for the first time in at least seven years, this was actually possible for us. So we made our plan.

While I was looking forward to the canoeing itself, I was dreading the process of getting to and from the river: hauling my canoe up from the back yard; sorting through dust- (and mold) covered storage bins for straps, foam pads and other transport essentials; hoisting the boat onto my car and securing it sufficiently for the eight mile trip across town. Our time was limited. Wouldn’t it be better spent on the water?

And then I remembered a little wooden sign I’d seen, time and again, on Route 123 in Norwell. At Bulman Marine (you may remember it as King’s Landing), there were canoes and kayaks for rent – for full or half-days. A quick phone call confirmed that this was still the case, and suddenly we were looking forward to a most pleasant day on the North River, without any hassle.

The man on the phone explained to me how it worked. “It’s self-service,” he said. “Look for the box near the door of the main building. Posted next to it, you’ll find directions.” It’s $30 for a half-day and $50 for a full day. Cash or check.” Simple.

Indeed, upon arrival, we found a mailbox mounted on the outside of the building. In it were envelopes and release forms (one per person). We filled out the forms, added our payment, and dropped the sealed envelope through the mail slot. Next up: selecting our canoe.

This was easy. We only saw one. Plus quite an assortment of single and double occupancy kayaks. (Note: there is more than one canoe on site. The green ones are the rentals.)

We carried our boat toward the ramp, loaded our own gear (coolers and chairs for our picnic lunch, plus a dry bag containing our keys, IDs and phones), and then headed to the shed for paddles and personal flotation devices (PFDs). We slid the canoe down the ramp, hopped in, and pushed off.

It was nearing high tide on the North River that day, so we were able to ride the current upstream. Our destination was Couch Beach in North Marshfield, about an hour’s paddle, unless we encountered some wind. We did. But it was such a sunny, warm, and lovely day on the water, we didn’t mind. Not having seen each other for more a year, we had plenty to talk about.

In due time, we reached our beach. After hauling the canoe away from the high water line, we climbed up the embankment and unfolded our beach chairs at the edge of the pine forest. What a view! Before us was a panorama of marsh grass and sky, with the river in the foreground . . . one of my all-time favorite settings. We had a leisurely lunch, enjoying the novelty of being able just to chill out. And when we were sufficiently fed and rested, we headed back downstream. 

This time the wind was at our backs. We returned to the marina in half the time. All that was left to do was paddle up a small creek to the ramp, and pull the boat out of the water. Simple enough.

When we departed, there was a lot of water in the creek. When we returned, not so much. But it was still navigable. I steered us wrong and we ended up in the mud about halfway up the creek, so we shoved off and tried again. This time we got much farther in. 

My friend was in the bow. She leapt out of the boat to pull us to dry land, but then something went wrong. The river bottom was unexpectedly soft. The mud did not support her. She sank up to her knees, stumbling forward into the water and tipping the boat over in the process. I jumped out to right the boat and I too sank in the mud. 

We pushed the boat up onto the ramp, but by then we’d each sunken in up to our thighs. This was getting scary. I could barely pull my feet up from the mud. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just kept scrambling toward shore. Eventually I was out, and my friend was right behind me – both of us soaked and completely covered in black mud.

We tipped the canoe again so we could get the water out, and then carried it up next to the shed, where there was a hose. After rinsing ourselves off, we cleaned out the boat as best we could, and put it back where we found it. It was then that we noticed the float, and dock, just a few feet farther downstream. Oh!

It turns out, we could have exited there, and not through the mud. Duly noted. It also turns out that the sign on the door (with the rules) happens to mention this at the bottom. It reads, “Do not launch or disembark in launch ramp at low tide. Mud is deep and messy. “ It wasn’t low tide – just mid-tide for us. But, oops! Now we know.

There definitely will be a next time. I’m not ruling out the use of my own canoe, but when time is tight and convenience is a factor (and the tides are working in our favor), renting from Bulman Marine is an appealing option. Here’s the rundown.

The rentals are first-come first served. On the phone, they told me it would be $30 to use a canoe for a half day, and $50 for a full day. But then the sign read $40 for a canoe rental, so that’s what we left in our envelope. According to the sign on the door, single kayaks are $30 and double kayaks are $40. PFDs and paddles, which are included, are stored in a nearby shed. For more information, call 781-659-7273.

by Kezia Bacon
September 2012

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com