As regular readers of my blog will recollect, my trusted hound Xena and I go on a walk virtually every morning and every evening. Weekday morning excursions are centered in our neighborhood; since much to Xena’s chagrin, I still go off to work each day. In the evenings and during the weekend, our strolls are in a massive park near the house. On those walkabouts, we have the liberty of extending the time we have for our constitutional.
With the longer walks, there comes a secondary ritual; the coveted cool-down ride in the car. Xena is a creature of habit; to the point that any disruption in her routine leads to brooding. So needless to say, after each walk in the park we end up spending the next twenty or so minutes driving around the area. Unless it is terribly cold or raining, the back left side window is rolled down all the way. This allows Xena to hang her face in the breeze, have her long ears flap about wildly, and make her jowls fill with air!
One particular portion of our standard route (I did mention Xena’s need for routine) involves driving along a nicely tree-lined stretch of road that twists and turns with numerous hills. Although this street segment is paved, there is only one lane in each direction with a landscaped median in the center. The speed limit in this area ranges from 30 to 40 miles per hour. In order to take in the serene beauty of the area, as well as not draw too much wind into Xena’s face; I typically like to drive around 25 miles per hour.
Now taking into account my preferred automotive cruising speed and the fact that there is only one lane; there is a tendency for me to back up traffic from time to time. Some of the drivers behind me take the slower pace in stride. Then there are the speed demons who decide to ride on my rear bumper. When you look in the rearview mirror and cannot even see the other car’s headlights; it is safe to assume you are one brake tap away from being rear-ended! What you may ask is my response to this aggressive driving? I take my foot off of the accelerator and drive even slower!
I have had everything from leaning on the horn to flying of the universal one finger salute shared with me in response to my leisurely pace. The ingratiating element of these actions is that they have absolutely no effect on me. I am too busy taking in all of the splendor that nature is sharing with me. In short, I am living in the moment! Occasionally I will glance back in the mirror and see everything from nervous tapping of the steering wheel to veering in a vain effort to somehow get around me.
All of us are in too much of a hurry in this age. We are either the victims of poor planning and always running late or we are slaves to some cruel master who holds a stopwatch that we are compelled to obey. Either way, our distraction over time holds us captive. We forget to take in all that is around us. We forget that the journey is more important than the destination. We lose sight of the fact that the world will continue to turn, whether we arrive early or late!
I have a unique and wonderful affliction. I have come to realize that the past has already slipped through my fingers and I will never be able to alter it. I acknowledge that the future is mostly beyond my control. That only leaves me with the present moment. I would be insulting that moment if I allowed myself to become distracted by the artificial measure called time. I have a need to observe every aspect of what is happening in the here and now. I am compelled to have all five of my senses overwhelmed by my surroundings. In a few seconds the present will become a not too distant memory; and I have a burning desire to make all of my memories cherished ones!
Therein lays the root cause of my slow driving! How can I hope to be connected to the world around me if I do not take it all in? How can I take it all in if it is speeding by me in a blur? Too many of us are so busy paying homage to time that we live our lives in a blur. We do not find ourselves connecting with nature or even with other human beings. We become isolated islands of complacency. Our souls become blunted in the process and that saddens me.
On a more practical side, I hope that my slow driving has perhaps saved some lives. If not deterred from speeding by me, would that tailgater behind me have flown over a blind hill and rear-ended a stopped school bus? Would they have turned sharply at too high a speed and rolled their vehicle? Would that driver have hit one of the many deer that like to cross that road? Yes, in this vein you can consider me your own personal public safety service!
Tomorrow is Sunday, which means that early morning will find Xena and me at the park. After a good hour of sniffing and exploring, my faithful hound will lead me back to our car. As is her custom, she will expect me to take her for her cool-down spin; which I will obligingly perform. I only hope that when we get to that one-lane road; I will need to slow down because you are in front of me and driving even slower than I am!