If our car’s leaky battery cooperates, we’ll be spending a week at a friend’s rental farmhouse property near Ashville North Carolina. I’ve had more than a month to prepare for this week; my laptop is packed and I still have a chapter of “Dancing with Byrne” to write even though we’ve declared it a vacation. But still, I’m a little at odds over the fact that there is no internet where we’re going. If you know me, this is a ridiculous apprehension – I am not far from a techo-dolt and my cell phone is definitely smarter than I am. I’ve literally driven to the end of the earth (well, at least as far as its possible to drive, Tierra del Fuego) without “connectivity” beyond internet cafés every couple of weeks.
The thing is, the foothills of Ashville don’t seem far enough away for my body to enter isolation mode. I know there are earth-friendly, vegan wi-fi hangouts next to every micro-brewery; a download is only a drive away. So my brain is refusing to call up the skills I’ve developed over a life-time of solitary ventures. What will I do when there’s a fact about 1930s New York (where Byrne came of age) that I need to know, even if it’ll never end up in the book? I’m so used to having the internet as a decompression tool, a procrastination ally, that it’s a tad more intimidating than I’d like to admit to go for a week without it. It’s like dieting. I can do it if there’s nothing tempting in the fridge.
So, as usual, I wonder what Byrne would make of my conundrum. And then I laugh. She and Duncan used to retire from Beaufort summers as hot as this one every year. Not to Ashville, but to Connecticut – another of their stopping points on the fascinating journey of their married life. Byrne didn’t stop working during these summer breaks – she just taught dance and spread “womenisms” to different students. Duncan managed to keep writing because he couldn’t help it. And all of this transpired in a house where there was, of course, no internet but in a house that didn’t even have electricity or running water! Their two daughters slept in a tree house and Byrne bathed by well-water. Duncan took a wonderful photograph of her, in a perfect modern-dance spiral position on the ground, pouring bowlfuls of water over her naked body. I love how comfortable she looks, as though this was nothing out of the ordinary. It is natural – if only for such an extraordinary woman.
So the hell with the internet – I’ll write from within my own life and mind. And who knows, maybe there’s a well on the farm somewhere.