(A series of articles exploring alternatives to the daily barrage of information, images and thought-clutter that comes at us through our handheld devices. I have been experimenting with electronic-free venues in order to reclaim the real estate of my mind and inner life with pleasing results. This is Venue #2: The Lounge Chair.)
I live on a property which, because of a shed addition on the side of the garage, has both a backyard and a back backyard. The backyard abuts the house and is the site of my vegetable garden. The back backyard lies behind the shed-garage structure and is further away from the house. This is “the Park”; it is the place that is away from the demands of the front door, the phone, the computer, and any sundry household duties. Furthermore, if no one notices where I have gone, then I am also away from many urgent people-demands.
The back backyard is where I set up my lounge chair. It is an outdoor area: blue sky above, usually a slight breeze that cools and a couple of shaded areas to enjoy. My two favorite places to park my chair are under the thick canopy of the orange tree or in the deep shade just to the north of the fig tree.
So, how do I prepare for my time “in the Park”? Well, no telephone. I repeat, I do not take my telephone out of the house with me. And yes, it feels weird to leave it inside. But I do take a book or two to enjoy in the fresh air. Oh, yes…and a pencil…I like to mark thoughts of interest as I read. I usually don’t take anything else. Out I traipse with book and pencil in hand.
As I get settled and lean back in my chair, I don’t do anything at first. I lock my chair into a reclined position and I lay there quietly. I might kick off my shoes, but then, I’m just quiet and still and thankful. And I breathe the outdoor air again and enjoy the feel of being alive: no roof above me, the dense protecting umbrella of a tree to shield me from the sun. I don’t know how it is or by what mechanism it works, but I begin to relax. I hadn’t really even identified a strong need to relax, but I do begin to relax. It’s not a practice of mindfulness, it’s just sitting in my chair, then noticing the tension, that I didn’t realize I had, is leaving.
In our quiet backyard there is plenty of activity to take note of. There are any number of birds: mocking birds, house finches, mourning doves, humming birds, sparrows, and one curious phoebe bird. Their particular vocalizations fill the air. And if I lay really still, they might edge their way closer to my side of the yard. I’ve watched mother birds feeding their young as they perch on the wires that are suspended over the back of our property. I’ve watched a hummingbird, not perched on anything, pick insects out of a spider web. I’ve watched mocking birds watch me. Then there are butterflies constantly fluttering about the flowering bushes: monarchs, swallowtails, mourning cloaks, and a few others that I haven’t taken time to identify.
And so, sans phone, I decompress. Now I pick up my book…or not. I haven’t really come out to my chair to read. I came out to be away from…things. The book is a pleasant diversion, if my mind will pull itself away from it’s lazy reverie. My eyes absorb the colors of the scenery around me. I can smell the orange blossoms. Ah, but this is nice.
One word of caution: all the reclining of the body, the elixir of fresh air and the therapy of outdoor observation does not seem to produce the same level of relaxation and renewal if an electronic device is taken along…just in case.
Out of necessity I took my phone out to my lounge chair the other day; I was expecting a call, but I didn’t want to entirely give up my time outside. I didn’t miss my call, but the time was rather a flop as far as rest and relaxation were concerned. It surprised me a little, because I was committed to not being on the devise. I had it with me…just in case. That little niggling “just in case” and “because I was expecting a call” injected just enough underlying tension that I really didn’t get the pause I was hoping for.
My lounge chair is my companion in reclaiming the inner landscape of my thoughts. Hopes and dreams resurface and revive. Urgently important things seem to lose some of their insistent hurry. Creative ideas escape the corners of my brain where they have been corralled and sometimes forgotten. A lounge chair to reclaim my mind? Yes!