Unplug with me
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.
If you ever sat across the dinner table from surly teenagers, or adults even, whose eyeballs and thumbs are occupied by the tiny devices on which they're compulsively texting, you've suffered the Plugged-in Plague. There must be something innate in us primates that makes our smart phones, PDAs, laptops, 'pads and 'pods so compelling, even as our stress builds with every interruption, insistent chime, or spam.
No wonder someone invented National Day of Unplugging, starting Friday, March 1 and, locally, running through the weekend as Petaluma UnPlugged.
People who pledged to celebrate a screen-free 24 hours at http://nationaldayofunplugging.com plan to use the time to play with their children, relax and “reboot,” swim, bike, row, make love, pray, hike, skip, connect, unwind, read a book, make eye contact, cook, cuddle, laugh out loud, build a birdhouse, have fun, jog with the dog, “be me,” even “hear myself think.” One person promised to read the newspaper, presumably the paper version.
Don't these activities sound appealing? We yearn for leisure and human connection, so why is it so hard to click the off-switch and have a life? It helps when people around you do it too. So tell everyone you're tuning out, take someone you love by the hand (or leash), and go wandering around downtown and along our favorite urban waterway, the Petaluma River.
Details appear elsewhere in this publication, but here are some hints at fun things to do off the grid. Start your screen-free day(s) Friday with yoga (seniors), tai chi, or post-natal Pilates. With kids, you can drop in on Cinnabar's family drum circle, or hop over to the Historical Museum for the African-American history exhibit. Adults can bring their questions about how to slow down and savor more to the Five-Cent Advice Booth on Slow Living at lunchtime at Aqus Cafe. Wrap up the evening with music and meditation at St. John's Episcopal.
Saturday, local hiking and cycling buddies will turn out as usual. Lokahi Outrigger Canoe Club celebrates its season opener with Blessing of the Canoes at the Marina. Paint a pet rock for PEP Housing at the Arts Center. While you're there, take a gander at the weavings.
Speaking of ganders, there are lots of birds to see for individuals and families who get on the water Sunday in a rowboat, canoe, or kayak at the River Heritage Center. Catch a glimpse of rowers muscling through a two-day training camp. Bring your own kite and stick around breezy Steamer Landing Park Sunday afternoon for Aqus Community's family kite-a-thon.
All weekend, Aqus Café will distribute free directions for a self-guided walking, cycling, or paddling tour of Petaluma Water Ways, our seven-mile-long “town commons” for outdoor recreation. The trail links existing landmarks, like the Turning Basin, River Heritage Center, Marina, and Shollenberger Park, with future features like a small craft rental center, river overlooks, water access points, and community boathouse. On the tour you will wander through public greenspaces perfect for picnicking, contemplation, somersaults, or birdwatching. Pause to envision our riverfront's vibrant potential while you reacquaint yourself with the string of existing jewel-like parks on the northeast side of the river, as well as the little southwest-side gem that is McNear Landing Park. Get outdoors this weekend, and with luck, you'll exhaust more than just your thumbs.
You don't need anything organized to enjoy this holiday. Most of the activities mentioned are available year-round. With three full days to celebrate, you should have no trouble filling 24 hours of living and playing device-free. I plan to unplug starting at noon Saturday (I'm announcing this to the world, so it's more likely I'll do it!). I won't replug before noon Sunday, and who knows, by then I might be too busy having a life to want to reconnect to my virtual one. Won't you join me in unplugging? Together we can discover a different kind of power in numbers.
(Susan Starbird is a nonprofit marketing consultant and professor, kayak racer, and Petaluma Water Ways proponent.)
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