I hesitate to reveal myself as prehistoric, but I am prepared to say that I remember life before personal computers. The computer was some fictional handheld device on Star Trek reruns: cool, but totally sci-fi.I grew up in a rural setting, but my family didn’t farm. These days, there is nothing unusual about that, but for the time and place, it was … different. I am the youngest of four and the only girl. Let us just say that a child of today might be stymied by the limited access to electronic entertainment. We received, via a rooftop antenna, precisely four television channels. Nobody had to tell me to go outside and play. Even in the deep snows of a Wisconsin winter, I was outside with only my imagination to keep me company.
My brothers would be off doing their own thing, while I would start walking. We had 90 some acres—half pasture, half cropland—rented out to a neighbor. It didn’t matter how others had harnessed the land; it was my personal playground.In warmer months, the redwing blackbirds were my friends and the gnats made sure I stayed aware. I knew the location of every rabbit warren and wasp nest, every hole to twist my ankle and stone to stub my toe. I would lie on my back, chewing on the tender tips of prairie grasses and listen to the world around me. The birds, the bugs, the swaying plants, and the ever-present wind created a transportation device. I was free, alone with my thoughts, and unafraid to dream.
That is what’s missing in many cases. Quiet time, down time, call it what you want, but without it, we all suffer. How can you hear your own voice when it's drowned out by chaos, controlled though it may be? It doesn’t really matter where you are. Try it sometime. Politely decline that invitation, turn off the television, the computer, and your phone. Tell your family you need to run an errand, and hide—maybe in your own yard, or a nearby park. Force yourself to be still. At first, minute will feel like an hour, but if you persist, an hour will feel like a heartbeat, and then your imagination will be free to go anywhere it pleases.