August 8, 2014

Off the grid

I am writing this outside the little shop at East Rosebud Lake, hitched to a spotty guest WiFi in a remote corner of Montana. The sign at the lodge says Alpine. The nearest incorporated town is Roscoe, which boasts a population of 15. I'm not quite sure where I am, but it's small.

The Goan family cabin, just across the lake, has been home for the past few days, a week in all.

I'm not a Goan, but I married into the family, so I'm now part of the rich heritage of his place, which stretches back to Sam's great grandparents. His mother and grandfather grew up with summers at the cabin, and like pretty much everyone who has married into this family, I can see why it's a great place for kids.

They can run around freely, breathe the fresh air, and play with nothing but their imaginations and the endless toybox of nature. Stones become babies, butterflies become fairies, and curved sticks become guns (sigh).

Wild raspberries (renamed razzleberries because, why not?) and huckleberries are plentiful by the creek and delicious in pies.

I can't believe how thoroughly the kids who whimper at mosquito bites and scream at spiders back home have embraced their outdoorsy side here. They cheerfully hiked the 7-mile round trip to Elk Lake, where they climbed on giant boulders and ate peanut butter sandwiches over the water.

The lake is cold, so cold it recalls its glacial origins, but Evie and Felix the Adventurers waded out to the raft and persuaded me to do the same.

Days at the cabin are not just about kids. This is my fourth visit to East Rosebud Lake, and each time I discover something about myself in the quiet of nature.

I was scared to put away the Internet, because now, more than ever, that's where my friends live. With no cell phone reception or WiFi at the cabin, I only use my iPad to read the novels I downloaded before leaving town. I only use my phone for the meditation app which helps the kids fall asleep after a busy day in nature.

I have found a type of peace and relaxation here that is hard to find in my everyday life, which is dominated by emails and chores and to-do lists and notifications. It's not that I don't relax at home; it's just either written into the online calendar (Saturday night: Fun) or I steal lazy moments from myself and feel guilty over the productive things I'm not doing.

The mountains don't mind if you just sit still for a moment, or a day, or more. What we consider a long time is an instant to them. Mountains remind us how small we are, how tiny our concerns.

This trip has also reminded me how important it is to document the moments as they pass. As we flipped through the cabin's guest book, which dates back to 1959, it underscored the value of writing our stories. Each little detail: a family hike, a moose sighting, a child playing on the bridge, carves the slippery memory into our shared history. 

And that's why I'm here today. It's why I stole away from gins and tonic and Italian Monopoli and the rest of my family to write this blog.

A week without Internet hasn't made me cynical about it.

To the contrary, it has made me appreciate how easy it is to document and share the passing moments of our lives, of our kids' childhoods, of our family adventures. Evie and Felix may not remember every detail of their week at East Rosebud Lake, but I can remind them that they were here. We saw moose and rode horses and played 10 Days in Europe and ate ice cream sandwiches at the lodge and had fun with the Diaz family and had fun with Sam's parents and had fun with just the four of us.

We were here. And I am here to tell the story.

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