Outside the blue jays gather once again in the morning light. Daylight Savings Time has been returned, and our surrounding wildlife knows nothing about our trick of stealing time to play. Many ask, why we don't just stick with Daylight Savings Time and forget about that extra hour we borrow every spring? I say it's a gift we get to enjoy at a time when many of us could use a mental lift.
Recently, thinking she needed a little boost, I bought my cat a new toy. It's a small, finger-sized mouse, stuffed with catnip. From time to time, the cat will seek out the toy, flirt with it, knock it around, roll over on it, then sit on top of it. Other times, she will sit apart from it, then pounce on it when no one is looking. Sometimes it just sits under a rocking chair, forgotten. But when the toy is doing its thing, entertaining, teasing, enticing, the cat is a happy mammal.
A new toy
Inside our house, we also have a new toy. Since the holidays, I've been teased and enticed by a new iPad. Several friends of mine also are the new owners of iPads, so like small children looking over a whole new neighborhood of ideas, we push on a screen, swipe fingers in one direction or another, and poke apps we have never seen or heard of before to see what miracles of exploration we have to investigate.
As older adults, participating in this exploration can be quite funny. We all have burst into laughter trying to get music or image or communication to work properly or easily. We desperately want to show each other, to share our new wisdoms. Sometimes it just doesn't work at all, it hasn't been clearly explained, there are no directions, and those who do know what to do are not in the room with you. That's when the iPad is like the cat toy under the chair. Leave it alone. It's not entertaining when it doesn't work.
But when an iPad person comes in, willing and comfortable to teach us, the sweet machinery of comprehension follows as they explain, poke apps, wipe screens with a fingertip, and show us how to reach that one place we were trying to get to.
Last night it was recipes for sausage and chicken jambalaya. Instead of having a few cookbooks out, comparing ingredients, on the iPad the recipes were all linked together, and easy comparisons and cooking tricks were clearly available. As we puttered in that category of searching, we needed to check the train times for the Amtrak trip the next day, so we poked and swiped and found that information, too. Then we started talking about trips we had gone on to one of our favorite places in Belfast, Maine. We hadn't been down east in a few years, and our nostalgia had kicked in. So we reopened the iPad, found Google Earth as an app, and began poking and swiping the screen in front of us.
At first, all I saw was green-the trees that line the road I live on, the forests that surround my roads to and from town, all clear as day, the photography explicit to where I start from; that little machine knew exactly where I was on the planet.
Then Google Earth sweeps you away to the place you want to see. A huge expanding view of a map of the northeastern United States comes into focus. Then, as the machine does its thing, it finds Belfast, up on Penobscot Bay in central Maine. Quickly the map focuses on our little adopted town, and the streets and waterfront come clearly into view. Before you know it, you can find the exact address of a little motel you like, or a favorite breakfast spot. You can see the buildings, the driveways, and if it was sunny when the picture was taken, you can see the way the shadows fall on the sidewalks.
So with our new toy, from working on a tasty recipe for supper and checking train times, we were able to travel hundreds of miles to a spot where our memories were bringing smiles. Then while we ate, we could turn on some nice jazz to enjoy with the meal. Obviously the toys of this generation have many facets of enjoyment, most which I am exploring as March lingers here inside. It's way more than most folks need by way of a toy, and it is an exciting adventure when you know what you're doing. It seems an antidote for boredom, until you realize how much time can be spent looking for a single song or old story from the New York Times. IPads can steal your time, generously given away to the air around you as you daydream late winter away.
On the puddle of sunlight on the kitchen rug, my cat sits next to her toy. The days will feel longer as we adjust to Daylight Savings Time; the long cat stretch in the sunlight will pull the feline to play again, softly, as though the wait for spring was okay, was moving along at just the right pace. March can be a long haul. March can break the spirit, splinter it when it's cold and unforgiving. But if you have a way to treat yourself with a new toy, do it! Be a happy mammal. April is almost here.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book of 2007.