Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stop downloading -- and smell the roses


Sherry Boas
(first appeared in Orlando Sentinel January 14, 2007)

Photo by Selena Dittberner

Sounding like a SWAT team officer, my 14-year-old son swept into my home office and commanded, "Step away from the computer!"

Translation: "Mom, you've been working too long."

Toby's none-too-subtle suggestion hit its mark. I lifted my fingers off the keyboard, released the mouse and pushed back my chair. How right he was. Repeat offender that I am, I had once again overdone it.

Most of us are guilty of similar excesses. We choose sitcoms over sunsets, computer screens over natural scenes and Web pages over real places where warm breezes, fragrances, textures and sounds stimulate the senses in more ways than cyberspace ever can. By reaching so greedily into technological vaults -- filled though they be with a wealth of diversions -- we overlook treasures in our own backyards.

What price can be put on hearing a sandhill crane's cry as it flies overhead? What payments should be rendered each time you drink in the sweet scent of a new bloom -- orange blossom one month, jasmine another? What value can be placed on viewing a predawn sunrise with your children before the school day and workday begin?

Despite the occasional backslide, for the past few years I've been reorganizing my priorities. Spending time with my family is No. 1 on my must-do list. Being aware of my surroundings and taking better care of myself are running neck-and-neck for No. 2.

There is so much joy to be found in everyday things. I don't regret the change of focus at all. Surprising benefits of this realigned schedule are a lightened stress load, a healthier body and a happier family.

Time speeds up when I sit down at my computer so, in order to slow it back down, I try hard to keep my son's admonishment in mind.

Step away from the computer.

Simple words from an almost-adult on the verge of entering his own crazy vortex of swirling distractions. Even if only a few minutes are taken each day to stretch weary limbs, look out a window or walk into another room, stepping away keeps the magic from turning mundane, the fun from becoming humdrum.

We Floridians live in an amazing state filled with incredible skyscapes, constantly changing seasons, weird and fascinating wildlife, myriad flowering plants and more natural secrets to discover than any of us can probably uncover in a lifetime of searching. Who wouldn't welcome a chance to step away -- however briefly -- from the cluttered cubicles we've constructed to inhale a breath of fresh air?

Simple pleasures are all around us. Finding the joy in seeking them out to share with others is what this column is all about.

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