Have you Twittered away your summer?

When Berry wrote his poem, amateur cinematography required a camcorder the size of a bread loaf, carried in a shoulder bag as big as a purse. It was a form of technology that, while relatively convenient, still nudged a novice filmmaker to consider costs versus benefits. Was all of this homespun memory-making really worth the trouble?

But these days, thanks to the spread of smartphones, vacation travels evolve almost seamlessly into personal narrative. Or so I was reminded during my family’s recent vacation in North Carolina, when my wife snapped a candid shot of our teenage son as we lunched at an Asheville restaurant, then posted it to Facebook. By dinner time, the image had prompted 45 “likes,” our odyssey unfolding not only as a private itinerary, but a public performance.

This kind of grass-roots travelogue has become so intuitive that vacation interludes away from the camera can seem like a visit to another age. Our family had one of those encounters, too, when a kayak ride up North Carolina’s New River required us to keep our smartphones safely back on dry land. To hold the morning in memory, I’d have to rely on my five senses and middle-aged brain—biological tools that, once reactivated, proved surprisingly supple.