Don Det, Thailand 2011
The whirring of the fan stops abruptly.
The page won’t load despite my frantic clicks. I check my newsfeed, this time on my phone, but the feed won’t load either.
There are no miniscule bars showing above the network connection icon.
Panic sets in. The truth settles uncomfortably.
The power has cut.
My anxiety rises quickly. I can hear the sound of lost productivity ticking away by the second.
I manage to grapple at efficiency a few minutes longer, reading some pre-loaded articles I’ve been meaning to get at. I update some Word documents, organize a few folders on my desktop.
I take a few rushed breaths. That’s about 10 more minutes of efficacy I’ve manage to salvage.
I automatically check my phone again, scroll through some old pictures, re-read a few messages. Damn. Those things are pretty limited without wifi. I toss the phone aside.
My breath comes out in an impatient huff.
I look back to my laptop. I’m unwilling to surrender to idleness, but the glow of the screen seems to be taunting me.
I close it reluctantly.
I notice the soft click the laptop makes as it shuts. I don’t think I’ve noticed that before.
Another breath. This one slightly fuller.
There is my journal with a pen sticking out of it lying on the navy blue, cotton duvet on my bed.
I pick up the pen slowly. The old friend still remembers me. We start to dance slowly at first, unsure and awkward as the ink begins painting words across the page. But we slowly find our well worn rhythm.
I look up in the space where the laptop screen was, now closed, and notice the beams of sunlight slicing through the sheer, burgundy curtains. There is a dull-brown coloured butterfly perched in the corner of the bungalow ceiling, lazily flapping its wings. For a second I thought it was a frog or small mammal. Or the four inch-long snail that came by yesterday night, making a second appearance.
I notice the sound of the birdsong outside. The fullness of the hot, stuffy late afternoon air engulfs me, reminding me of the bitter death of the fan.
I actually listen—not just hear—the thwack as another one of those ripe, still unidentified tropical fruits hits the ground. They’ve been moulting from that tree for days.
I see the lush, human-sized, green banana leaves outside my window, bobbing gently in the lazy late afternoon breeze. I see the roof of the neighbouring bungalow, a patchwork of foot-long, faded brown leaves hewn together with thin stings of bamboo.
I listen to the evening chorus of the bullfrog, the crickets and the cicadas as they belt their eager anticipation of the setting sun so the stifling heat will go away.
I feel the empty hollow of my belly as I haven’t eaten anything all day, my appetite dulled by the torrid heat.
The sound of an easy, Thai melody sings softly from somewhere nearby. Damn, must be a battery powered radio.
My spine is stiff from hours of sitting in front of the laptop, only a couple worn cushions separating my bum from the hardwood floor. I slump further down, leaning only the top of my back against the thin wooden walls. My lower spine cracks deliciously.
The bottle of water I took out of the freezer this morning is now completely melted. I take a few slow sips, grateful that the water is at least still cool. I put the bottle back down. Beads of sweat line the plastic Crystal Pure water bottle (salvaged out of the recycling bin earlier this week).
The croaking of a toad sounds from somewhere outside. That’s odd, their chorus doesn’t usually come until much later. I can hear the trickle of the fountain creek bubbling in the background. At least the pipes haven’t been shut off too.
The girl in the bungalow beside me is humming a simple, off key tune. Her baby makes soft murmuring noises, seeming unsure at what it’s trying to say.
Then suddenly—the thrum of the fan starts unexpectedly, the sign that the wifi is also back up and running.
The brief pause in the world comes to a close.
I reach out for my laptop instinctively, with the intention to make up for the lost time with increased efficiency, but my hand freezes in mid-air.
I realize I’m grateful for the power cut. There was, in fact, no time lost at all. This blessing in disguise has allowed me to slow down.
It gave me space to pause—a refreshing intermission in our world of rushing, efficiency and productivity.
It allowed me to feel safe putting pen to paper—the first time I have really written in over a week, without fear that I could be doing something more “important.”
It reminded me that life goes on beyond the wifi connection.
It gave me space to get connected to what was—what is—real. It allowed me to open my eyes, ears and senses to the reality that continuously surrounds me, yet which my efficiency does not allow the time to be fully present to.
In a world addicted to speediness, it allowed me space to be, instead of do.
As I open my laptop, I take a second to pause and feel the soft plastic of a few individual keys on the keyboard. I trace the familiar square shapes under my fingertips. The black and white of the keys makes me think of a piano, only this instrument sings a different tune.
I notice the small scratches on the sleek silver bed in which the keys lay, and move my eyes slowly toward the rectangle power button in the top left hand corner of the keyboard.
I gently press my finger to the button.
I note for the first time the vividness of the electric blue light that has appeared. It is signalling that efficiency has resumed. As I press the Refresh button to re-load the frozen page, I make a mental note to incorporate these mindful moments in my day more often.
Indeed, they really are quite refreshing.
Originally published on Elephant Journal.