The Good Life: Characters Locked in a Cell

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl


So done with winter!“Spring seems most reluctant this year…” my husband’s grandmother wrote in a letter to us almost twenty years ago. Personal email was just starting up, and Grandma was close to 90, so the technology revolution entirely missed her generation. Her phrasing stayed with me all these years later, because what she said was certainly true, but there was no frustration in her words, only grace. A similar text today might read, “So done with winter!,” also true, but delivered with a crass directness and blistering internet speed never before seen. I love social media and texting for the very way it keeps us connected in a casual, immediate manner, but with the intoxicating rush of 21st century communication, and insatiable quest for immediate information, I have lost something.

Internet access makes me feel as though there is constantly something I should be doing, every minute of every day, right up until I fall into bed at night. I could be registering for retirement benefits, paying for school lunches, researching my ancestry, or confirming dentist appointments (there are 5 of us, and one with braces). My cell phone was a generous gift given to me by my generous family. Texting makes communication with them flow freely and easily. Help at school pick up time is now just a text away, and for that I am truly grateful. That cell phone has truly made my life easier in that respect. However, I feel the burden of expectation that comes with that portable, yet powerful device. 

My cell and I have an uncomfortable and complicated relationship. I am expected by my family and friends to have it with me and on at all times. It needs to be charged, the ring tone blaring, and I have to be ready to answer. But I don’t know where to put it at any given time. I don’t love to have it in my grasp or in my pocket. I feel like the most appropriate way to transport it would be in a holster, and I would posture myself like a cowboy with an itchy trigger finger. I am not a rebel, but I am just enough of an outlier to purposely leave my phone behind knowing my husband might be irritated by my irreverent lack of response. When I see people hungrily pecking at their phones like miners pecking rocks in the heated days of the California gold rush, I want to avoid becoming one of them. Electronic communication is a beguiling captor, and the peaceful spaces I used to cherish between coming and going have vanished. But the outlier in me may continue to leave my phone behind, and instead of sending a text, I may send a letter instead. A heartfelt gift. An envelope filled with precious time and lovely phrases that can only be written with blue ink and real paper. A gift worth waiting for, like reluctant spring.

[Photo credit: (cc) Melina Sampaio Manfrinatti]


Sarah Mattison Buhl

As a mother of three, Sarah appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. She makes her home with her family in Northampton, MA.

3 Comments on “The Good Life: Characters Locked in a Cell

  1. I appreciate this greatly! My husband and I are outliers as well, we often feel like we are part of a near extinct breed. We do not have cell phones at all because we fear the slippery slope into distraction. We choose the slow life to the frustration and dismay of our loved ones.

  2. P.S. Your mother-in-law thinks so too!

  3. Absolutely gorgeous, Sarah. Your way with words is a gift seldom found these days!

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