I spent the last weekend traveling to rural Appalachia. I was on a mission to connect with this year’s spring Goldenseal Sanctuary interns in the last week of their six-week internship. I was anxious to hear about how the internship had impacted each individual’s perspective. Was the internship worth it for them; had they found what they had hoped to experience? I was prepared to hear about what trouble lies hidden in paradise. Instead I heard about the bond they had forged with each other, the plants, the community and most profoundly the Goldenseal Sanctuary. The interns had been totally immersed into the green side of life. With no cell-phone reception and no internet, they had spent their days working with the plants, hiking, reading, and creating community amongst themselves. They expressed that it had been beyond refreshing that the Yurt, as the main community vortex, was pure of the distraction that modern technology forces on our lives. You know what I am talking about—that annoying feeling when your conversations take place in shortened texts, when your friend is only listening to about 25 percent of what you are saying while she is googling on her laptop. Instead, there was no email to check but just trails to hike, plants to learn, medicines to be made, and plants that needed to be dried.
So I arrived with another agenda beyond the intern check in and download—it was to see if the phone company had lied to me about the fact that we could get DSL Internet through the phone line. It was a hard sell, as the sanctuary is located near the town of Rutland in Meigs County and is rural Appalachia territory where some of the neighbors are Amish. Not many people carry cell phones since cell towers are far and few between. That said, it was worth a try to disprove what appeared to be more of a myth than reality. But I must say after hearing the emotional testimony to what can be gained by the feeling of being disconnected, a part of me began to hope that it would be myth instead of reality.
I was reluctant to plug in and have the wireless DSL be the vortex of no return. It had become an ethical debate, the dark side of the Internet and the greener side of the intern experience. BUT, I could not help myself, for I live just shy of an hour west of Washington, DC, and here in Piedmont the option of DSL is not an option. So I bitterly plugged away at hooking up the device and reluctantly watched as the bars appeared on my computer showing indeed the women at the phone company had not lied to me. It was true that faster internet was indeed functional in rural southeast Appalachian Ohio. Well, future interns, read this and know you must recognize the dark side of the internet, like the moon has a side that becomes illuminated when the other side goes dark, and that illumination is the high that comes from being disconnected from the email, leaving us to re-engage in what really surrounds us—our friends, our community and, of course, the plants we love.
FALL INTERNSHIP DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION IS AUGUST 1St 2011