The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio.
By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible.
Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month. No TVs. No radios. Scant cellphone reception. A landline phone rested on the nightstand in each room, but I don’t even remember how to place a long-distance call. A computer in the lodge lobby offered Internet access, but the concept of sitting for hours in front of an electronic device while a Monet-caliber landscape loomed outside the window seemed crazy, so we didn’t.
Despite our unplugged state, something revolutionary happened.
The sun rose each morning. People conversed. Laughing occurred. Trails were hiked. Books were read. Food was enjoyed.
Yes, my aerobic attempts to transmit a text on that lodge patio, staring at my cellphone instead of the Blue Ridge Mountain background — even momentarily — made me think twice. I was waiting to see a checkmark and “Successfully Sent” flash across the phone’s screen. A flashback of another checkmark message entered my mind — the one on my elementary school report cards under the category of “Uses Time Wisely.”
It reminded me how easily minutes and hours, and opportunities, can slip away.
Which brings us to the topic of Friday — the summer solstice, the official first day of summer, and the longest day of the year.
The Wabash Valley will experience 14 hours, 57 minutes and 29 seconds of daylight Friday, between sunrise at 6:23 a.m. and sunset at 9:20 p.m. Ancient cultures celebrated “midsummer” each June 21 as Earth’s axis reaches its closest inclination toward the sun. They staged festivals, lit bonfires, walked over fiery coals, gathered herbs, sang, danced, and feasted with food and drink as a respite between spring planting and tending to the crops before the fall harvest. Centuries later, if current trends continue, millions of Americans will spend 3 hours and 12 minutes of the year’s longest day connected to social media.
Our medieval ancestors would shake their hairy heads at us in disbelief.
We gaze at those flashy, rectangular boxes in the palm of our hands a lot. Sixty-seven percent of American adults use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, according to a Pew Research Center study this year. The aforementioned 3-hour, 24-minute online usage merely represents an average. The 18- to 34-year-old group spends 3 hours, 48 minutes a day scanning those networks, while 50- to 64-year-olds average 2 hours, 24 minutes, according to calculations by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange. Women average 3.6 hours, and men 2.6.
This isn’t a rant against Facebook and its social network brethren; they have their virtues. Instead, the year’s longest stretch of daylight always feels like a wakeup call. The solstice creates a mental image of a massive digital stopwatch lurking overhead, counting down from 14:57:29 to 0. Each tick of the clock feels so brief and makes us question whether we’re using those seconds, minutes and hours in ways that will mean something when the sun rises tomorrow, next week, next year or 2023.
We don’t have to dance around a bonfire, quaffing mead, like middle-age people pretending to live in the Middle Ages. It’s far more simple.
Visit a park. The City of Terre Haute operates more than 1,000 acres of parks, trails, greenways, boulevards and golf courses. The Vigo County Parks system contains 1,868 acres of parks, wetlands, trails and campgrounds. Take in some live music; there’s plenty around the community, from coffeehouses to clubs, from orchestras to Hank Williams cover tunes. Explore a library. Read a book. See a play. Walk the neighborhood. Visit a house of worship. Volunteer at a local charity.
Look beyond the cellphone to the horizon.
Summer is at its physical starting line. Use the time wisely.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
As the year’s longest day arrives, spend your time wisely
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio.
Honor awaits 181st Intelligence Wing
As he sat on his mother’s lap inside the Air National Guard Base at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field on Sunday, little Henry Shultz was all smiles as he waited for the start of a ceremony recognizing his father’s service to the community and the country.
‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
Every year at about this time, Statehouse reporters like me ask lawmakers what their priorities will be for the coming year.
Restaurant Inspections: Dec. 9, 2013
Operation Warm Christmas: Giving warmth
Crews from a Wabash Valley heating and cooling business traveled in two different directions — one went north and the other south — during the early, cold Saturday hours with one mission for the day: to bring warmth to two Terre Haute homes this season.
Small tax, big Statehouse fight
Who would have believed that old fork lifts, barber chairs and aging computers could capture the attention of so many folks around the state?
‘A part of living history is now gone’
With the death of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost a “giant of history” whose fight for justice and spirit of forgiveness continue to serve as an inspiration to many, say those familiar with his legacy.
Pepsi, oil and gas agreements on School Board agenda
The Vigo County School Board will consider an agreement with Pepsi and an oil and gas license with Pioneer Oil when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday.
Q&A: Wabash Valley legislators reply to questions on business tax proposal
Wabash Valley legislators reply to questions on business tax proposal
Indiana lawmakers face ambitious agenda in short session
Lawmakers are crafting an aggressive agenda for the new year that includes a tax break for businesses, preschool funding for the poor, road spending and a divisive constitutional amendment — all packaged into a so-called “short session” of the Legislature.
Sifting the ashes: Prairie Creek First Baptist Church
The cause of a late Thursday fire that destroyed a 137-year-old church sanctuary may never be known due to the intensity of the blaze.
Miracle on 7th Street: Snow just in time
It was cold and snowy in downtown Terre Haute Friday, but the holiday spirit was very much alive at the annual event, Miracle on 7th Street.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
City slickers: First heavy snowfall of season leaves roads slippery through night
Snow and ice covered roads, cars, buildings and homes in the Wabash Valley late Thursday night and throughout the day on Friday as the first winter storm of the season moved through the area.
Four-car crash leaves 1 dead
A four-vehicle crash in eastern Vigo County led to the death of a 51-year-old Brazil woman Thursday evening.
Former Sen. Richard Lugar receives Chapman S. Root award.
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, recently praised by President Barack Obama for making the world a safer place, visited Terre Haute Thursday to receive the Chapman S. Root award.
Wabash Valley prepares for today’s snow and severe drop in temperatures
The weather outside was more frightful Thursday night than it was expected to be this morning, as an icy mixture of precipitation played out. But snowfall is expected to continue today to accumulate up to seven inches in the Terre Haute area, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.
Lilly grants $5M to 3 Vigo colleges
Three Terre Haute colleges will benefit from a combined $5 million in Lilly Endowment grants intended to help students find “meaningful” employment after graduation.
Otter Creek Twp. moves forward on bond issue
Otter Creek Township officials Thursday unanimously voted to approve a lease agreement that moves the process forward on a proposed $1.8 million bond issue to construct a new seven-bay firehouse, which will replace a current building that sits in a flood zone in North Terre Haute.
Mayor asks for $5 million ‘tax anticipation’ loan
Mayor Duke Bennett asked the Terre Haute City Council Thursday night to approve a “tax anticipation” loan of up to $5 million that must be repaid in up to three years.
39 Indiana schools get Lilly grants
Indiana’s 39 accredited colleges and universities will receive a significant boost in improving opportunities for their college graduates to find meaningful in-state employment as a result of $62.7 million in grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., the organization said in press release on Thursday.
Special admission, activities tonight at Children’s Museum
The Terre Haute Children’s Museum is joining in today’s Miracle on 7th Street with discounted admission, an appearance by a live reindeer, holiday-themed stories and activities, music provided by the ISU Holiday Choir and an opportunity to write a letter to Santa.
United Day for United Way of Wabash Valley to be Jan. 17
United Way of the Wabash Valley is scheduled to make its final push to hit the $1.85 million campaign goal with its annual United Day for United Way on Jan. 17.
Poll of Hoosiers finds growing support for legalizing pot, opposition to marriage amendment
Legislators may balk at the idea of easing the penalties for marijuana, but a new poll shows a majority of Hoosiers support legalizing the drug and taxing it like alcohol and tobacco.
The same poll finds that a strong majority of Hoosiers oppose amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.
INDOT to have I-70 lane restrictions in western Indiana
Construction crews are scheduled to finish several small road repair items on Interstate 70 now through Dec. 14.
Ivy Tech announces academic restructuring
Ivy Tech Community College will restructure its academic divisions to better align programs with potential career and transfer tracks for students and aid in retaining students, the school said Thursday in a press release.
Pence unveils legislative agenda
Gov. Mike Pence is calling on the Indiana General Assembly to increase spending on education, roads and job development while ending a $1 billion-a-year tax on business that funds local governments, schools and libraries.
Indy developer interested in vacant ISU towers
The walls of Indiana State University’s Statesman Towers won’t be tumbling down anytime soon, despite a planned demolition that is now on hold.
Terre Haute gives out art grants
The City of Terre Haute backed its support of local arts organizations with funding on Wednesday, as grants totaling $21,500 were presented to seven nonprofit organizations.
The extra step: Feed company gets special certification
Graham Feed Co. in Terre Haute has attained a Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification from the American Feed Industry Association.
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