By G. E. Shuman
The subject of technology, both what I believe to be the good and not-so-good of it all, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I will never be certain that our society’s headlong plunge, never looking back, into the world of cell phone apps, social media and cyberspace is a good thing. (Do they still call it cyberspace?) In some ways I am a bit, but not completely, out of the electronic loop, and, as such, am probably not a good judge of those things. So, please don’t take offence. I’m just not sure that having a device in our hands all day long is a great idea. You may disagree. If so, just chalk my opinion up to my rapidly ascending age. (…It does seem like everybody’s dead lately.) I just feel that relying on all that tech, as exclusively as is now the norm, may have a downside or two. That’s all.
It’s not my job to figure all of that out, and I am happy that it isn’t. I’m sure I cannot convince you to give up your phones and Facebook friends for the summer, although I think I would if I could. I do have a suggestion for one fantastic thing you could do at least a few times in the warm weather months, which might prove to be just a bit better than sitting on the couch with your distant cyber friends. (Do that in the winter, if you want.) My suggestion is to simply ditch the device, wean from the screen, and become a time traveler. No, really. I mean that. Become a time traveler. I feel that I have already done it, many times, and here’s how:
I believe that time travel is possible, from many spots in your area and in mine. One such spot in mine is a place that my family and I have visited for many years. It is a place that has always put things of the present into perspective for me, as I travel into the past, while there. The place is called Shelburne Museum, and it is located in the beautiful town of Shelburne, Vermont. I highly recommend it, if you are in the area. I highly recommend it even if you have to come into the area to visit it. In that place I have traveled to the days of the steam engine, the paddle wheel steam boat, coal-fired railroads, and long-past circus trains. I have touched there a Conestoga wagon, a Concord Coach, and sleighs and sleds of winters which were melted away long before my grandparents were even born. I have, in my time-traveling mind, become a student in a one-room schoolhouse, admired 100-plus year-old tin toys, and chatted with a real blacksmith as he actually stoked the fire in his authentic shop. I’ve witnessed printing presses from the 1800s, still printing, if only to demonstrate their work to the people visiting them. I have even stood in awe of original masterpieces of art from the likes of Monet, Degas, and Cassatt, and have been inches from a handwritten letter from the pen of Abraham Lincoln. I just love visiting the past!
Of course, but in case you didn’t know, there are time travel spots all over the world. All you need to do is to visit one in your part of it. I have many readers in central Massachusetts, and those folks are certainly aware of their own, best place for time traveling. It is a great spot to do so, indeed, and is a place that I have also visited, myself. Old Sturbridge Village really cannot be topped, for a day truly spent in the past. It has been years since my last visit there, but I remember watching clothes being dyed in an outdoor cauldron, wool being carded and spun, and the wagons and ways of that wonderful, early New England town. The people in period costumes there seem to not be acting at all, as they chat with you in early American English, explaining their day’s work, even as they do it. In fact, as they are immersed in the long ago time with you, they do not need to act, do they? As you leave from your day at Old Sturbridge Village, there will be no doubt in your mind that you have visited the past, while there
It comes to mind that the great state of Massachusetts offers many other wonderful spots where slipping into our nation’s past is a very easy thing to do. Boston’s Freedom Trail, Plymouth Plantation, and Plymouth Rock are among the best to see. I would love to have you try them all this summer.
In addition, and as only one addition of many that I could mention here, my home state of Maine is just as full of time traveling spots as anywhere else I know. I love Wiscasset, not only because my own father was born there, but also for Fort Edgecombe, a relic and reminder of the Revolutionary War. You should also spend a day at Fort Knox, up toward Bucksport, with its never-used cannon emplacements, granite walls, and grassy slopes overlooking the river. A bit to the south, along the rocky Maine coast, is my favorite spot in that entire state, and, perhaps, in the entire world. That place is one I have visited, and written about, many times. It is the very old Rockland Harbor breakwater. There, huge granite blocks, put into place over a 130 years ago, still protect the harbor and provide a foot trail to the ancient lighthouse at its end. If those rocks could talk, what tales of the past they would tell.
You know, as Americans, we live in a truly wonderful land, full of opportunity and ease, and steeped in good things, including what I hope are the best uses of our amazing technology. Most of us are so busy accomplishing the things of today that we barely remember yesterday, much less our nation’s past. I’m just suggesting that we might all take a break for a few days, and take our families to witness that past, where things were tough, and neighbors were known, and the people who made our way of life possible, lived. Try doing a bit of time traveling this summer. I promise, you won’t regret the trip.