Turning 61: unplugged and present

Suzette Standring
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On the beach 10-year-old Bella forms an “arena” in the sand.  Lulu, age 7, runs over with a yellow pail of crabs. The two largest gladiators are placed on their backs in the arena, and I’m told,  “The first one to turn over, wins.  Go!”  Claws scrambling, a sudden winner, shrieks and laughter from my granddaughters. This is my reward for staying unplugged on my birthday.

Searching for "gladiators" in Bourne Pond

Searching for “gladiators” in Bourne Pond


David helped to collect "gladiators" for the arena

David helped to collect “gladiators” for the arena

Social media pales to living theater yet the temptation to share on Facebook can be relentless. My gift to myself is to savor such moments the old school way.  Fully present.

Later by the rocks, Lulu grabs a baby eel, petting it for a while, and then it slithers away into the water, amid more shrieks and giggles.

Lulu and a baby eel...EEK!

Lulu and a baby eel…EEK!

On my birthday, I have a question.  Why is it that repeated sounds – traffic, or a same song playing over and over, or even background conversation – can be annoying, but the repetitiveness of the surf, or birds twittering, or laughter by children is restorative?

Wait. Is that a Twitter-worthy post? Forget it. Why squint into a phone screen to edit that down to 140 characters? Oh, just turn over and feel the sunshine.

Ah, sunshine reminds me that my friend is visiting the Caribbean. She’s posted Facebook photos and I haven’t “liked” any yet.  Should I do that now?

Should.  Ought to.  Must.  They are turn signals into a bad neighborhood. Now I’m thinking about work: column deadlines, interviews, publicity I’ve promised to help with, and workshops coming up.  I want to jump up from my beach towel and flag everyone down to get back home.

On my birthday, I have a question. Is “what I do” becoming too much of “who I am”?

This is when everyone needs a “whoa buddy,” somebody who steps in to save you from yourself. At that moment my husband is that guy.  Knee deep in water, David motions for me to join him, as in “Whoa, buddy, you need to come in here and dig for clams.”

Bourne Pond

Bourne Pond

I wade into the shallows and responsibilities vanish.  I rake the sand with my fingers, and touch two clams, like buried Easter eggs. White clouds billow overhead as I slush through the warm bathwater of Bourne Pond.  No amount of blogging could capture this.  Should I try?  (Stop it!)

On my birthday, I have a statement.  God is voluptuous.  Last night he was yoo-hooing through an owl’s call.  His eyes twinkle through seashells, his breathe tousles my hair. His own hair is afire at sunset. It occurs to me that figuring out “who I am” is a lifelong journey, but God’s face is revealed minute-by-minute.

My granddaughter Lulu often searches for things.  “Where are my shoes?”  “I can’t find my shirt.”  “Did you see my book?”

Open up your peepers.

Open up your peepers.

Often, my reply holds true, “Open up your peepers and look. It’s right in front of you.”

I need to lift my face from the computer or phone screen and take my own good advice.

Hydrangeas in full bloom at Heritage Gardens in Sandwich, MA

Hydrangeas in full bloom at Heritage Gardens in Sandwich, MA


  1. Another beautiful post, Suzette and you’ve captured the day perfectly on your blog – but I’m glad you didn’t stop to do it, on that day!! Wise advice for many of us, myself included 🙂

  2. It was a beautiful day, Annie, and it was worth staying the FB hand!

  3. This should be required reading for all ages. The kids mightn’t get it, but the memory of reading “something about doing stuff that’s not on computers” will haunt them in coming years. Truth. It’s what’s for dinner.

  4. Great reminder of what’s important, Suzette! Glad I was “plugged in” to read it! 🙂