Mindless Pleasures From A Ring, A Line, And A Tree

On Hen Island there is a huge tree near the bunkhouse.  On one of its outstretched limbs a line has been hung.  At the end of the line is an iron ring, hanging from a hook on the trunk of the tree.

The concept is simplicity itself.  You remove the ring from the hook and pitch it out into the open space, trying to get the ring to swing out on the line, return toward the trunk, and land securely in the hook.  Of course, it looks easier than it actually is, and trying to make the right throw, in the right direction, with the right velocity and speed, becomes an exercise in patience and frustration.  But when the key lands on the hook with a satisfying thunk, the feelings of pleasure and achievement are as real as any.

It’s addictive, of course.  And try to walk past it — just try! — when other folks are playing.  You can’t resist the opportunity to take a turn and make your toss, and while you’re waiting kibbutz with your fellow players about the proper direction (should it be toward the laundry line, or the little tree?), the vigor of the toss (you don’t want to be short, you know), whether the ring should be thrown steady or slowly spinning (you can argue for hours about which approach increases your likelihood of success), and countless other fine points, like the coefficient of friction and wind gradients.

You take your turn, endure the close calls, lament the near misses, hoot at the successes, and enjoy yourself immensely as the hours slowly pass.

Going Off The Grid

Everyone should go off the grid now and then — disconnect their technology, stop checking their messages and sending texts every five minutes, and sit in a rocking chair and read a book or have a good talk for a change.

Our trip this weekend up to Hen Island in Lake Erie took us into the “roaming zone.”  When we landed on Pelee Island, in the Canadian waters, we promptly received a text message advising that we would be assessed the dreaded roaming charges for any calls or cellular use.  I immediately turned off my phone.  When we reached Hen Island we discovered that, oddly, some parts of it — miniscule as it is — are roaming, and parts have Verizon coverage.  I nevertheless kept my phone off except for once a day checks to make sure that Kish and the rest of the family were okay.

What a delight to be unhooked from the grid and no longer enslaved to the phone!  And what a treat to have a conversation without being interrupted by a beep or chirp — or noticing that the person you are talking to is surreptitiously checking their handheld for a text message that apparently can’t wait.  Liberated, by necessity, from the reflexive, repeated phone checking, you have the time for a quiet walk, some exploring, a good read, or a silly game.  Relaxation inevitably follows.

When we returned from the roaming zone and restored our phones to the grid, the world was pretty much the same as when we had left it.  Astonishingly, it hadn’t ended because we were disconnected for a few days.  It’s a good lesson to learn.