PAGE THREE Dispatch From a Quiet Place

Now Is the Winter of Her Disconnect

Like many of us, Adrienne G. Cannon uses electronic devices to keep in touch with friends, news and the world. Sometimes she just tunes out.
Like many of us, Adrienne G. Cannon uses electronic devices to keep in touch with friends, news and the world. Sometimes she just tunes out. (Courtesy Of Adrienne G. Cannon)

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Monday, January 5, 2009

As we plunge into the first workweek of the new year, take a moment to unplug to listen to your world's true sounds.

I've got a cellphone, a mobile phone, several cordless phones and a land line phone. I own an iPod and a computer through which I access the Internet and my e-mail program and download podcasts and iTunes. Loaded on my computer is WeatherBug to tell me the temperature at any moment when I am online and, when necessary, warn me about severe weather.

In four rooms of the house there are TVs, each with recording or playback capability (a VCR or a DVD). There are radios in the den, kitchen and bedroom. The stereo set with an amplifier for the radio, tape deck and five-disc CD player awaits me in the living room. There is even a turntable on which to play all those vinyl records I still own. When I leave the house, I've got a radio in my car, a CD player and a tape deck as well as my iPod.

I still read a "real" newspaper while I have my morning coffee. But often I have the TV on simultaneously to find out what is happening at the moment. The "Today" show presents news about yesterday, today and tomorrow until I cannot digest any more details. Often there is "Breaking News!" to remind me of the war in Iraq, or a disturbing background story about another troubled country in the world. National news includes an interview with a stressed-out mother whose child is missing and who might be speechless but is coached into expressing "how she feels" at this moment.

How did we conduct our lives competently, and as I remember, happily, when we didn't have so much input from the electronic world? I can remember opening the front door in the morning to see what the weather was at the moment and guessing how it would progress during the day. Perhaps a radio announcer would mention whether the temperature would be going up or down, or whether rain or snow was expected. If I wanted to know the directions for driving to a location, I didn't have a GPS system. I would consult a map or write down the directions dictated from a phone call making an inquiry.

I could read the headlines in the paper with a column or two to explain local, national and international events and editorials to follow if I felt the need for more information. After that I could listen to music or, better yet, turn off the radio and TV, fold up the paper and go about my daily work calmly and without interruption.

I have kept up with the times, however, and consider myself to be a modern woman. I am adept at recording my favorite TV shows for later viewing. I often take my mobile phone outside into the garden while chatting with my friend, and I think I look kind of "cool" when I wear my iPod and listen to NPR programs while I am walking or exercising. The sound of music from the stereo is soothing when I am reading or writing or working around the house. But often, weary of the ever-present auditory and visual stimulation, I turn off all of these marvelous devices, wired and wireless, and as I did once before, listen to the sound of silence.

At first there is a pleasant lull. Then I perceive distant ambient sounds -- someone down the block mowing the lawn, a garage door opening and a neighbor's car leaving, a dog barking at an imaginary foe. There is white noise -- a plane flying overhead, faraway traffic sounds, the wind blowing through the trees. I look out the window and notice the advance of the season in the changing color of the leaves. I know the temperature is rising because the frost on the grass has melted. I sigh with relief as I am reassured that although life goes on around me, for a moment all is quiet and my weary spirit is refreshed.

-- Adrienne G. Cannon


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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