In August, a bunch of us rented a beach house right on the water in Saugatuck, Michigan. I was staying there with 15 other 30-somethings, a few friends as well as friends of friends, who I hadn't met before.
That weekend, the Olympic Games were winding down, but the 16 of us weren't glued to our sets watching them. The only games we were concerned about playing were the board game "Taboo" and a few rounds of poker. And that Friday, Mitt Romney had selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, but we didn't know it. Our only selection that day was red or white wine.
The house was deep into the woods so none of our phones got service.
And then, Saturday night, just as we were putting the finishing touches on our barbecue, the electricity went out--and the water too.
So we had no phones, no power, and no (flushable) toilets. Sounds like a hassle, right? But, you know what? I loved every minute of it.
We were totally present. Being disconnected to the outside world made us connect all the more to each other.
That evening, a few of us sat by the beach, watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. And I'm not talking about catching a quick passing glance on our way to our next activity as the sun went down. No, we literally sat there and watched the whole show, as day turned into night.
Then, we made a fire, ate burgers, corn on the cob, and veggie kabobs, exchanged funny stories, drank wine, roasted S' mores, and a couple of our musically-inclined friends treated us to a few a cappella songs.
Later that night, with the power still out, a group of 10 of us headed to the beach. It was a chilly night so we huddled close with only two blankets between all of us. We lay there for a long time, staring up at the blanket of stars without saying a word. None of us Chicago city mice were accustomed to such an unobstructed view of the sky. It was simple. Quiet. Peaceful. Magnificent.
Around this time of year, I reflect on the past year and think ahead to my hopes and prayers for the new one. That weekend, a stop from the usual hustle and bustle of our lives in the big city, gave me a space to do that.
Four hours later, the power returned. And the water too. (I'm not going to lie--I was thankful for those workin' toilets.) And the next day, we all drove back to Chicago, our cell signals now offering us enough bars to reconnect with the external world.
Once again, we had returned to the 24/7 news cycle, including the final Olympic medal count and whatever was the latest distraction in the presidential race.
Being back in the city, and back to the usual whirl of my busy life, I looked up at the those stars in the sky--this time juxtaposed with skyscrapers, against a backdrop of city sounds like car horns and the passing El--a different view, different sounds, but still beautiful.
The trip compelled me to be more present in the new year, to "disconnect" with the world every once in a while--and to connect more often with the wonderful people in my life. I want to eat more S'mores, drink more wine, play more Taboo, and look up at the stars in the sky each and every night.