No news is good news

I don't know where Chandra Levy is. And even if I did, I'd be of little help trying to track her down, since I'm several weeks behind the news cycle. Any tip I'd be privy to would be colder than a spring-fed mountain lake in June before it reached me. In fact, for the entire summer, I've been getting only bits and pieces of what is considered "newsworthy" information from the outside world. And by the time I've chewed them over, they've already been devoured, digested, passed on and largely forgotten by those beyond my rural Maine enclave.

You see, this summer I went to camp, and only the following things truly concerned me: cabin clean-up, mosquitoes, the talent show, free swim, the camp musical, mosquitoes, the theater imrov classes I taught, my daughters' riding lessons, mosquitoes, leaky roofs and, of course, the three baby birds in the nest outside our cabin door. Did I mention mosquitoes?

Oh, I knew that George W. Bush went to Europe ... but only long after he had returned and gone again. I read somewhere that China was hoping to land the 2008 Olympics -- weeks after it already had -- and that a train full of toxic chemicals was burning beneath the streets of Baltimore. But I wasn't planning on catching an Orioles game anyway, and let's face it -- how important was it to find out that Charlie Crist had decided to run for yet another statewide office? I mean, that happens all the time!

Yes, it was much nicer listening to the cries of the loons at night rather than to the loony pronouncements of the "Beltway Boys" or the "Capital Gang" on cable TV. Nicer to hear the lake water lapping against the sides of the rowboats moored in the shallows outside our window than the boorish, shallow sounds of the media's political gadflies. Even nicer to hear the children's voices singing increasingly louder verses of "You Can't Ride in My Little Red Wagon" than the increasingly childish rantings of talk radio.

OK, I did tune into snatches of news on NPR -- but only as a way to wake up before the breakfast bell! And I did manage to read the odd Time magazine (whenever the U.S. Postal Service deigned to forward my subscription) but always weeks after the fact. Yes, yes, I also got some information from friends once in a while via e-mail, and I peeked at some local websites to see whether our house back home in College Park had floated away. But the urgency was largely missing from my heretofore-voracious newsgathering appetite. Filtered through the rustling pines, the "top stories" simply became increasingly less insistent and infinitely less important as the summer wore on.

And what I learned was this: It's very good to get away from it all -- the cable news, the network news, the paper news, the World Wide Web news, the neighborhood news, etc., etc., etc. -- once in awhile. A body needs to rest from the constant concern over the thousands of things we often feel we "need to know." For instance, I was happy to discover, this summer, that I cared very little about global warming for the first time in years. (In fact, getting warm enough was the problem; Maine's chilly night air invaded our rustic cabin's walls as if they were made of cheesecloth.)

Also, I better understand why President Bush felt the need to go on a month-long vacation himself this month. Even the leader of the free world needs a respite from hard, continuous thinking about, say, global warming, or the problems of the poor and uninsured, or whether it matters that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is about to be plundered for just six months worth of oil -- should he finally decide to start thinking about such things. Heck, the world will still be there when George gets back from his exile, just as it was for me when I returned from mine. Well, not all of it perhaps, but enough to keep him busy until his next month-long vacation.

So, Dubya and I really posit the same question: How much news is necessary, anyway? Or, to be more exact, how much information can one really do without? Being out of the loop for a spell didn't hurt me much this summer, so I don't suppose it's going to bother him in the slightest as he continues being out of his. It seems our part-time president truly understands the simple aphorism we learned back in junior high school: The more you study, the more you know; the more you know, the more you forget; the more you forget, the less you know ... so why study?

By the way, Mr. President, do you know where Chandra Levy is?