Out of the Box and Off the Grid

by Becky

Last week we disappeared into the wild to celebrate my birthday and wrangle out our book list for next year’s workshops – one of our favorite parts of the summer. But there was, unexpectedly, no cell phone service or Internet. We found this both frustrating and refreshing. We could celebrate anywhere, of course, but to research book choices we (thought we) needed the Internet.

So instead of squinting at screens, we went outside. We wandered over inland ranches and coastal farms. We plunged into shrieking winds along rocky shores. We wound our way through sticky monkey and chaparral to scratch the bellies of sleepy horses. And when we sat down to work, it was in an old boathouse at the end of a very long pier, where we used paper and Ticonderogas.

We hunkered down over the scuffed wooden table and pondered the old-fashioned way, namely by staring out the window.  The tide was in, the wind was up, and a fire crackled quietly in the corner stove. Some great titles made it to the table, and into our plan. For a while we were the only two people there, and then we were joined by a young couple from Santa Rosa.

They had brought a bottle of wine with them, and pretty soon our conversation and theirs became one. They too were entrepreneurs – he was the founder of a thrift store, and she had started her own preschool in Petaluma, delightfully named Happy Hearts. A big part of her mission is to get kids outside as much as possible, where they can discover and absorb and appreciate this beautiful world. And, of course, care for it well.

Oh how we loved that idea! But right away we realized what it had taken to get both of us outside, even though we grew up on a farm and are big nature buffs.  As business owners with an online store, it’s just become far too easy to end up inside too often and for too long . But we know better! We know the characters in our favorite books thrive, by choice or circumstances, in the great outdoors. That they aren’t houseplants – that they wouldn’t have grown indoors.

What if Heidi  had never left grandfather’s hut to wander in the Alps? What if Karana had kept to her cave, had never rowed away from the Island of the Blue Dolphins that frightening night? What if The Wind in the Willows  was just a newfangled fan in Toad Hall?  Could The Hobbit have discovered his courage if he’d stayed in his hole? What if Sam had never run away and declared “this is My Side of the Mountain!” It’s the outdoors that forges character and friendships, and helps protagonists learn what they’re capable of.

And listening to Miss Alison of Happy Hearts, we remembered that kids don’t just learn that from books.  They learn it from experiencing the wide, wonderful world themselves.

Our tech-absent trip, and our chat, inspired us both. Now that we’re home, it’s become a priority to get outside more often, and “go analog” as much as we can, even as phones and screens try to trip us up and keep us plugged in. And it’s reminded us that we’re all about experiencing the world, not just through books we’ve “made real,” but through real life.

Do you have plans for getting outside this summer? Where are your kids’ favorite places to get armloads of sunshine and fresh air Do they, like us, want to “go where the characters were”?

Please share your ideas and experiences – we love hearing from you!


Becky Kimball

  • Parmalee

    June 27, 2018 at 1:24 pm Reply

    Oh yes! Eloquently put forth!

  • Jenni

    June 27, 2018 at 7:14 pm Reply

    We have another book for you to LitWit sometime! “Ghost Girl” by Delia Ray. It has nothing to do with ghosts – it’s about a girl in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1930s, and it’s based on letters and journals written by the actual teacher at the mountain school up there at the time.

    • Becky

      June 28, 2018 at 8:52 am Reply

      Ooooo! This looks good, Jenni! We love historical fiction and strong girl characters. However… of our caveats is that we try to stick with older books and this one is only two years old. We crossed a lot of good stories off our list this year because they just didn’t meet that criteria. Occasionally we break that rule (we LitWitted The Circuit, for instance, because it offers such a rare perspective on immigrant life here in California). But this one does look really good, and we’ll keep it in mind for a future date if we decide it’s time to broaden our net. It’s great to see these stories of important points in our nation’s history continuing to be retold in fresh ways. Thanks for the comment, Jenni! Happy summer reading with all your sweet girls! 😀

  • Gracie Foust

    June 27, 2018 at 8:12 pm Reply

    Oh my goodness what a fun day!

    • Becky

      June 28, 2018 at 8:42 am Reply

      Yes it was! Thanks for commenting, Gracie, nice to see you here 😀

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