What I’ve been doing on my internet vacation

A freak snowstorm on Thursday night/Friday morning ripped down numerous, still-leafed-out limbs and some whole trees. We got up to five inches in Plummer’s Hollow, though the accumulation dwindled to almost zero at the bottom of the hollow. State College, which is roughly at the same elevation as our farm, made the national news. The damage was greatest on the trees with the largest leaves: oaks, maples, tulip poplars, and black locusts — the reverse of what tends to happen during icestorms that hit after the leaves are down, when oaks and tulips are among the most damage-resistant trees.

The storm left us without power for fourteen hours, and without internet and telephone for three days and counting. I’m typing this from a computer in my brother’s house in Tyrone. So how have I been taking advantage of this enforced separation from the internet?

  • I’ve been getting some reading done. My parents subscribe to a few magazines, such as Newsweek, Orion, and the new weekly Christian Science Monitor, and this kind of reading is a fair substitute for a lot of what I’m used to reading online (though it’s frustrating not to be able to Google references for more information). It’s kind of like taking methadone to treat heroin addiction: it’s fundamentally the same substance, but without the high. Reading magazines, it’s more difficult to shake the persistent impression that you’re actually just wasting time.
  • I’ve been checking the internet connection.
  • I’ve been reading copies of American Poetry Review from 2008. Penn State Library discards its paper copies at the end of every year when they get it on microfilm, and a friend of mine who works in the library passes them on to me. I certainly wouldn’t pay money for APR, but it’s amusingly snooty and a good way to keep up with what’s going on in the U.S. poetry establishment. (In a year’s worth of cover poets, the only one who manages not to look like a dork is Stanley Moss, who posed for his photo leaning on a horse’s ass.) I’m surprised that APR keeps publishing in such a disposable format rather than putting full content up on the web, but poets are a conservative lot. The editor of Linebreak tells me that some of the poets they solicit work from refuse to submit to an online journal.
  • I’ve been checking the internet connection.
  • I re-read Every Day is for the Thief, Teju Cole’s novella. For a story without much of a plot, it was surprisingly re-readable. However, I did feel that he should have done more with the mysterious Ondaatje reader on the danfo. I hope she gets a more substantial role in the screenplay adaptation.
  • I’ve been checking the internet connection.
  • I also re-read another book by a blog buddy: Tom Montag’s The Idea of the Local. The essays about walking made me feel I should take up walking for exercise again — photography has made me such a dawdler! However, the weather has been cold or wet, so I didn’t actually go on any long walks.
  • I’ve been checking the internet connection.
  • I started a fire in the woodstove, something I rarely do anymore. I guess the flicker of flames behind isinglass were a substitute for the flickering light of a computer monitor. It made the house too warm, though, and I had trouble sleeping.
  • I’ve been checking the internet connection.
  • I read most of Lost Mountain, a searing book about mountaintop removal that’s been sitting on my coffee table for more than a year, alternately beckoning and repelling. Who wants to be reminded about where our electricity comes from, its terrible cost? But the book turned out to be very well written, and sympathetic in its treatment of miners, mining, and Appalachian culture. The cast of characters is very compelling, including Lost Mountain — that’s its actual name — whose obliteration the author chronicles month by month over the course of a year. Compared with something like that, this storm seems very minor indeed.
  • And now and then I’ve been checking the interent connection.

8 Replies to “What I’ve been doing on my internet vacation”

  1. Oh my, those storms are scary, and heart-breaking in the damage to trees! Glad you are okay and have found some entertainment to tide you over the ‘net loss. Funny/sad how so much of our reading is on the net now at the expense of books and magazines.

    We’ve had some fierce wind and rainstorms here, and when I see those huge tree around us whipped about, I do get nervous about them falling on the house, especially after having a few of those severe storms in the past few years. Good to have a woodstove when the power is out, even just to boil some water or heat soup. Hope your internet and phone return soon, Dave.

  2. tree violence is a difficult thing.

    we lost half of a very old red maple last year from the ice and it still feels like we are struggling through the illness of a family member. that fear in the gut when the wind blows a little too hard, that anger when the electric company gets too close with their chainsaws. proud-mama-thing when new leaves grow.

    the trees always seem to win, no matter.

  3. Funny, I still feel that reading on-line is an unsatisfactory substitute for print, though I certainly wouldn’t subscribe to or pay money for many of the things I look at in passing here…

    Fire as a substitute for the screen eh?!

    Glad you’re back with us anyway.

  4. I have never heard of APR, and with your ringing endorsement, I think I shall not bother to hunt it down. I buy ‘Poetry’ every month, and end up enjoying about 2/3’s of the poetry. The rest just isn’t to my liking.

    It is amazing, is it not, what a time drain the Internets is, isn’t it?

  5. Must be disorienting to be without constant (and instant) access to the Internet. And reading without being able to jump off to another context for the text through searches must be an almost quaint experience from the past!

    As for the APR — how well I remember the snooty rejection letters I collected from them over the years — and how long they kept pestering me to renew my subscription long after I stopped.

    Hope you are back online in your own home soon.

  6. Hi all – Thanks for the comments. Our connection is finally restored here. Seems a tree broke one of the major cables down in the valley, and the telephone people have been paintakingly splicing together each of the 600 severed lines.

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