Once upon a time, in decades gone by, the world wasn’t so tech-focused and obsessed. People didn’t have “an app for that.” Heck, they didn’t have an app for anything! “Tweet” was the sound a bird made, and phones were attached to walls and had chords so we’d never lose them.
There was no GPS, only paper maps. If people got lost, they’d wander around until they found their way, usually having a little adventure in the process, or they’d stop and ask for directions from someone instead of relying on an automated voice with an English accent.
The average American spends about ten hours a day on technology. Ten hours! Think about it – that is almost half of every day and most of our waking hours. As Albert Einstein once said: “The human spirit must prevail over technology.”
It may be late-September and although the stores will soon be filling up with Christmas products, there’s still plenty of time to break free from technology and enjoy some good old-fashioned tech-free New England autumnal fun. Are you game? Consider yourself double-dared to choose at least one of the activities listed below and get in touch with your inner Yankee.
1. Make a scarecrow: Sure, you can go to the store and buy a pre-made scarecrow and your front yard will look just like everyone else’s, or you can find some old clothes, grab a ball of twine, a big brown paper bag, and a few permanent markers. Button up the shirt and zip up the pants. Tie them together with the twine and maybe a few safety pins, and fill them with leaves. Draw a face on the paper bag, fill it with leaves and attach it to the top of the stuffed shirt.
Add a hat or glue on some yarn, straw, or an old mop to use as hair. A pumpkin can be used as an alternative for the paper bag head. Lean the scarecrow against a tree or set it on your front step. Total time to create one scarecrow: less than an hour. You will come away smelling like the crunchy, golden leaves and with rosy cheeks from the crisp autumn weather. Celebrate your creation with a cup of hot cider!
2. Leaf bed: This idea is for those who don’t want to expend a lot of energy. Take about ten minutes and rake up a huge pile of leaves. Get a couple of old blankets and lay them on top of the leaf pile. Plop yourself down on the blankets and relax, letting the leaves support your body. Look up at the sky and watch the cloud formations float by. Listen to nature’s sounds around you. Take a snooze. Read a fun autumn-themed storybook to your child and enjoy a beautiful memory for free.
3. Wax leaves: Look around your yard or neighborhood and choose a small bunch of colored leaves that aren’t dried out. They should still be soft and pliable. Place a small dish towel on your ironing board and warm up the iron on low heat. Place a piece of wax paper on the towel and arrange the leaves on top of it. Place another piece of wax paper on top of the leaves. Place another towel on top of the top layer of wax paper. Carefully iron over the towel so the heat melts and transfers the wax from the paper onto the leaves. Lift the towel frequently to check on the leaves so they don’t burn.
When you’re done, let it cool and then carefully pull the wax paper off the leaves. You can feel the waxy sheen that protecting the leaves. As an alternative, you can keep the leaves in the wax paper and hang them up in the window to admire, or pack a few sheets of the waxed leaves into a manila envelope and send them to friends in warm places. Write “do not bend” on the envelope. You can also place them in a basket or scatter them on a table runner for a seasonal decoration.
4. Thanksgiving Gratitude List: This might be a little Oprah-esque, but basically it involves taking some time either alone, with your spouse, children, or friends, and make a huge list of all the things you are grateful for. Use a poster board and markers, not a computer. Post it somewhere where it can be seen every day. Use it as part of the Thanksgiving meal blessing. Have your Thanksgiving Day guests add to the list. It’s a great way to remember the things that make our lives special and to instill a habit of gratitude in the hearts and minds of children.
5. Host a Simple Gathering: Send handwritten invitations via snail mail to five or six friends for a simple autumnal gathering at your place. Give them the heads up that it is going to be a no-technology event so they don’t pass out with tech-shock when they walk through the door and you ask them to turn off, or give up, their phone.
With little preparation needed, serve up some cider and fresh donuts (purchased at Clyde’s Cider Mill). Ask everyone to bring their favorite mug to the gathering. After everything is served, ask each person to share why the mug they brought is their favorite and interesting stories will be shared.
Editor’s Note: during these unprecedented times, make sure your gathering doesn’t get too big and follow social distancing guidelines
6. Take a Creative Drive – When was the last time you took a drive just to enjoy the beautiful Connecticut/Rhode Island areas in which we live? Pick a road or a direction and just go. Don’t have a plan in mind. Stop at places you never had time to stop before – an antique store or small restaurant for lunch, or stop at a park you’ve driven by a million times but never had time to stop.
Don’t use your GPS – use a paper map (they still exist). If you are on a tight budget, pack a picnic lunch. If you live alone, invite someone to go along with you and make sure they know in advance that it is a tech-free adventure.
7. Host a Board Game / Potluck Night – Invite a few friends over and have everyone bring a dish to share. Pull out your favorite board games and have a night of laughs and good conversation. Let people know in advance that this will be a no technology event and ask them to leave their phones in the car or shut them off. Keep the TV off during the evening so the focus is the conversation, food, and fun. Just because the days are getting shorter doesn’t mean we have to park ourselves in front of the TV and stay there until bedtime. There are so many great board games to play!
8. Take Ten – Chances are that you are very busy most of the time and don’t have much time for yourself. So, before the glory of the leaves is gone and before the days are too cold to sit still in the sun, grab a lawn chair and head to a spot in your backyard, or the park, or the beach, and take ten minutes for yourself. Take twenty if you can spare it. Fill those ten minutes with deep thoughts, reflections about your life, pray, or breathe deep so that your mind becomes quiet, and simply enjoy the moment.
So, perhaps it is time to stir up our New England spirit, inner child, or inner Yankee – whatever we want to call it, and try to savor the remaining days of autumn by taking breaks from technology. Let us carry that experience into the upcoming winter season and beyond.