It’s 8.15, Sunday morning. Outside there are just a few wispy strips of cloud in an otherwise perfect blue sky, the sort of sky only my country can do. There are still leaves on the trees, but there’s some yellowing at the edges. It’s crisp out there, as in the temperature is low, probably around five degrees, which is nothing – in a couple of months it will be minus five, or less, much less. So here I am, in the dining room, where I am writing this post by hand. I have the heater on, and three layers of tops, and tracksuit pants, and ugg-boots, but that’s already too much information, isn’t it.
The fact is that I can’t wait to get outside. There’s a chook-yard to clean, and a veggie-patch that’s starting to look just a little bit sad and sorry for itself – the basil’s long gone, and the tomatoes only have a week to go before they’ll be done and dusted. Most of all, however, I want to plant bulbs, yes, daffodils, jonquils, snow-drops and more. Despite this house being 120 years old, there wasn’t much garden when I moved in; the place would have been decimated by decades of searing summers and pitiless winters, and, far too regularly, drought. But I’m getting it together, it’s a cottage garden now, I think that’s what I’ve created.
But here I am at the dining-room table, writing this post, because that’s what I do first thing every Sunday morning.
This time three years ago I didn’t have the internet at home, not even a private email address that I could access from someone else’s computer. It was when on residence at Bundanon on the Shoalhaven River that during the final-night celebration the other artists handed out business cards with details of their on-line lives. On the drive home I resolved to at least get an email account – how much of a professional writer could I be without it?
Within months, I had not only an email address, but also Open to Public, my formal web home, if that’s what it is, and Under the counter, which quickly became Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot. And then I started Verity La, and then the Childers Group, an arts advocacy body, which, of course, needed a site. And then bloody wretched Facebook reared its ugly head; I signed up because I’d been invited to participate in a writing project and the only way the organiser would communicate was through FB, those initials sounding like those of a close friend, but that’s hardly the case.
This week I realised that I now have five active email accounts. And then there are the Facebook messages, and mobile-phone calls and messages, and sometimes even the land-line rings, though mostly it’s only telemarketeers who call these days.
I confess that it’s quite a struggle to juggle all these strands of what’s become my own on-line life. I enjoy this blog, very much in fact – it’s become something like a diary that I write with other people in mind. However, I’m glad that from the outset I committed to doing only one post per week, and only an hour or two of participating in other blogs. Facebook has become a necessary annoyance more than anything else (and I’m avoiding Twitter like the plague). It’s the whole email thing that’s got out of control. On the back of an envelope I’ve estimated that I receive between three- and four-hundred emails each week, and the vast majority of them are important and/or interesting. So my laptop has become a source of stress, with only the odd bit of pleasure thrown in, if I’m lucky.
How do you keep your on-line life in check? What rules do you put in place, if any? What do you do when your digital living starts to unravel in front of your eyes?
I tell you what I do. I go out into the garden and remove plants, or plant plants, or clean out the chook-yard. Or sometimes I just sit outside on a little bench with a cup of coffee and simply watch the chooks – how good it is to observe them going about their lives. Do they care that they don’t have access to Youtube or 24/7 coverage of what’s happening in the world through multi-media newspaper sites? Do they care that they don’t know that someone on the other side of the world has just had the worst cup of soy-chai latte in the history of the universe?
No, not in the slightest, and I envy them for that, I really do.