She is headed out for a walk.
Grabs her key throws on a jacket decides to leave her water bottle behind.
It’s a short walk.
Twenty minutes to clear her head before she needs to move on to the next thing.
Sets the alarm locks the door walks down her short driveway and onto the street.
Her children are at school.
Her spouse is in meetings today.
What time? What time are the meetings, she thinks.
She doesn’t know.
Walks back inside shuts off the alarm digs through her bag.
Puts her phone in her jacket pocket where it is bulky and slaps against her side when she walks.
Just in case.
. . .
This week, I went on a field trip with my daughter’s first-grade class, and I learned a ton about rocks. We went to this state park that has purple rocks, pink rocks, green rocks, red rocks, black rocks—and rocks you can break with your hands. I’ve never had much interest in rocks. But it was rad. And once we got to the quarry, the kids all spent twenty minutes making their own rock art a la Andy Goldsworthy.
When I first sat down to write for today, my first thought was, “Oh crap. I wish I had a picture of some of the kids’ rock art to use.” But I don’t have one. Because the camera on my phone was full. Totally and absolutely full. Unusable. So I felt like an ass—a parenting failure—as I left that sucker in the car.
You know the punchline, I’m sure. Because we all know it in our hearts. By the end of that hike, I was so glad to be phone-free. Since we all know it, why don’t we put it down, leave it in the car, lock it in a drawer every once in a while? Are you like me—afraid in some unpinnable way of not having proof, of not being able to remember, of the experience itself not being enough to carry you through some future time when this moment is in long past?
Observation changes the moment. I read something fascinating about that recently, and now I can’t find it. When I do, I’ll share it with you. Maybe if I remind myself how the moments of that trip were changed by not having a phone with me, that will help me choose to leave it behind now and again.
Without a phone in and out of my hands and pockets, I got to:
Actually pay attention when my daughter and her friends showed and describe the favorite rocks they found
Put my hands on the moss and the tree bark and the rocks—textures I love so much
Be the rock collection station for my daughter’s friend, who had no pockets of her own
Make my own rock art while the kids made theirs
Turn off the monitoring part of my brain that’s always alert, subtly seeing the world through a lens for a great photo
Talk to other grown-ups without saying “Oh, hang on a second” while I snapped a perfect moment
Hold my daughter’s hand off and on when she ran up to me and felt so inclined
So I don’t have a photo of the rock art my daughter made. She used patterns of four and mostly flat rocks and two levels of roofs that made an archway. I’m so excited that I know that. And it’s because I was actually looking when she showed it to me, and she was actually telling me about it—instead of us both setting up for a photo.
That’s an Andy Goldsworthy photo up there. It’s cool, too.
. . .
"The objects that they had taken photos of — they actually remembered fewer of them, and remembered fewer details about those objects. Like, how was this statue's hands positioned, or what was this statue wearing on its head. They remembered fewer of the details if they took photos of them, rather than if they had just looked at them.”
—Psychologist Linda Henkel on All Things Considered on NPR. Read or listen more here.