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Each summer, I try to make a concerted effort to get away from the always-on barrage of media and technology. This past week, I visited my family in St. Louis, where I grew up. While I did have to do work for some of that trip, I also tried to unplug and distance myself from work and media for part of the vacation. My past efforts at unplugging have had mixed results, with my dad even calling me out in the comments section of the blog.

The sun is beating down on me through hazy clouds and cool breeze. I’m sitting in a metal pool chair, perched at the edge of the water, with my feet dangling in. There’s a fake palm tree nearby, giving me some shade and a spray of water to cool me.

The scene is far from quiet, as this is a sprawling kids swim park, with children of all ages swarming about, climbing stairs and coming down slides. Water is spurting all around, from water guns attached to turrets, from PVC pipes that open with the tug of ropes, from a very large bucket that sits atop the slide and pours out over everyone from time to time. As I watch my son and his cousins go up the stairs and down the slide, up the stairs and down the slide, up the stairs and down the slide, I slowly reach a state of quiet solitude.

How can such a scene of chaos bring quiet and zen? Sitting there, half in the pool, half out, one eye open for kids, one eye shut to the sun, I am far away from the rest of the world. I am in a bubble cut off from the workday world, and that rejuvenates me.

Things That I Experience

> Kids running around and swimming, enjoying the sun.

> Parents who look kind of familiar to me. Did we go to school together? Play on a Little League team 30 years back?

> Lifeguards trying with a degree of futility to stop the kids from running.

> The sun beating down inside my eyelids.

> The taste of hot dogs and fries and toasted ravioli (this is St. Louis, of course).

> My skin becoming sunburnt in all the spots I missed.

> The smell of chlorine, the cries of stubbed toes, the gossip of parents.

> Inner peace.

Things That I Do Not Experience

> Text messages on my smart phone. I barely know where my phone is.

> The latest comments posted to my blogs.

> My FriendFeed telling me what every wired person around recently did online.

> My Yahoo personalized start page updating me on my favorite blogs and news sites.

> The latest political news on Obama’s patriotism/religion tour.

> CNN. Fox News Channel. MSNBC. News of any kind. (I limit my TV watching to Cardinals/Cubs baseball games.)

> NPR. Newspapers. Disaster coverage. Local political dust-ups.

> Emails with press releases.

> Fear and dread.

> Deadlines.

Twitter famously asks, “What Are You Doing?” My answer: Absolutely nothing. Better yet: I don’t have to tell anyone about it.

Photo of person relaxing poolside by Rob Main via Flickr.