What do you do when you find yourself without television, radio, internet, telephone (both land-based and cellular) or even a few family board games for five days?
You read. A lot. Last Friday my children and I landed in just this situation as we settled in for a stay at Camp Luther in Schuyler, Nebraska. During the same time my husband was lodging at the decidedly more luxurious Benedictine Monastery in the same town, serving as musician for a Lutheran pastors' retreat. When we realized that his work at the retreat would come right on the heels of our trip to Seward, Nebraska for our church body's national worship conference and that it would be necessary for us to stay in Nebraska with him unless we wanted to fly home or take separate cars, I went looking for cheap accommodations. I stumbled on Camp Luther by doing a web search for camping in Schuyler (thinking it would be cheaper for us to camp than stay in a hotel). And boy, did I hit pay dirt. When I contacted the director of of the camp, we were offered a place to stay on a donation-only basis--in other words, whatever we wanted to pay. Of course, we leaped at the offer, and the accommodations far exceeded my hopes. We had a kitchen, two bathrooms (the cabin we stayed in used to be a duplex but has been converted to one unit), a living area, and a bedroom with a double bed and a set of bunk beds. If we had chosen, we could have eaten in the camp cafeteria, but with the available kitchen facilities I just ended up cooking all week.
My husband stayed with us the first night, and after we had checked in and unpacked the car he invited me to come outside with him and enjoy the night. We stood there listening to the night, hearing nothing but the bugs--no cars passing by, not even in the distance; no voices; no radios blaring; not even any dogs barking. And no lights to speak of either, just the blackness and the stars. That utter quiet and dark is something I remember experiencing during the several years I lived out in the country in my childhood but as a Chicago burb dweller it is now unknown to me. I wish I could bottle some of that and take it home.
We were in such a remote location--several miles of dirt road separating us from the nearest highway and nothing but farms and cornfields in every direction--that as mentioned we found ourselves completely unplugged from all our electronic tethers. And because I did not have room to pack games and recreational equipment, we didn't have a lot to do except enjoy the camp facilities and our books. So other than eating and sleeping and hiking (there was a small lake with a sand beach but the water did not invite these city slickers to swim in it), we buried our noses in books. Here is some of what I read over our five days at Camp Luther:
The last 10 or so chapters of Hakim's History of US, Book 9 (catching up with my kids)
Stories of the Second World War by Paul Dowsell (again, catching up with my kids)
The first few chapters of How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
Several issues of National Review and World magazines
Reading the Psalms with Luther (in part)
About half of The Secret Life of Bees (still working on that one--it is a stunningly good read so far)
And . . . drum roll, please . . . I finally read my first Harry Potter book! So now I can talk knowingly about all kinds of things like invisibility cloaks and Muggles and Quidditch and You-Know-Who! (But I've only read the first one, so don't spill any plot beans because at this rate--one per summer--I'll not be finishing the series until my 50th birthday.)
I will admit that unplugging was a bit of a shock to the system, because all of us are used to internet access 24/7. But after about a day of withdrawal, I was glad for the deprivation, knowing that without it I probably would have not spent as much time in my books. I used to be an avid reader, but now find myself going many months without reading anything (except blogs) for pure pleasure. Considering all the great books out there, I find that quite dismaying. So it was a treat to rediscover my passion for reading this past week. I hope come fall I can manage to set aside a little time each day to continue pursuing it.
It was a great five days, clouded only by a summer cold that started with my youngest and has now made its way through the whole family, hitting me much harder than anyone else (why is that?--does the fact that I got way sicker than the others say something about my general degree of healthiness?). Yesterday we left Schuyler and drove to St. Peter, Minnesota (what a gorgeous town) to stop in at the worship conference being held there by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and to make an early college visit to Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, which we are considering for my 15-year-old son in a few years. (Glenda, lack of time and colds ruled out a stop by your place this time--please forgive me, but I would not have wanted to make your family sick!) Today we're driving home. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed tonight! Tomorrow it's a marathon of laundry as my son and husband prepare to leave for another road trip on Sunday--this time it's to the U.S. Open (chess) in Dallas, Texas followed by a stopoff to see my husband's parents in Houston.
That's the report from the last few weeks. Stay tuned for more road stories!