If I added up all of the hours I’ve spent driving to the Target/Costco/Home Depot Shopping Center, Malcolm Gladwell would ask to interview me. I’ve practiced the 10,000 hour rule plus some, and consider myself an expert in this field. There are a few ways to arrive at the center, but I always drive the back roads there and the highway going home.
Over the years, I’ve come upon the shaken and tearful driver of a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, a helicopter rescue, and a car turned upside down with the occupants terrified and very much alive, hanging suspended from seat belts in the back seat. I drove up to herds of deer, a teen car crash, and policemen hiding behind bushes with their cups of hot coffee and radar guns. Incidents like these were the exception to the ordinary, filtering into my mundane like a shower of sparks and light. The drives are more frequently showered with the gentle turn of the trees through the seasons and everyday traffic patterns, punctuated with the never-ending delivery of items to the back seat. I delivered sippy cups, lectures, pacifiers, back packs, ominous threats, and many schools of goldfish crackers for twenty minutes each way times seven years.
Now, I ride alone, but I still follow the same route. Back roads on the way down, highway on the way back up. I know which tree likely conceals a cop, where the trucks like to race across, and where I need to slow for the hairpin turn. I’ve grown used to the same up and back, with a destination that never changes on either end. Today, I decided to take the scenic route home on the back roads. I didn’t expect to see anything different than I had when I drove it two hours before–I knew it would take me straight home.
As I made my way back, I noticed how different the landscape looked from the opposite side of the street. I saw the homes I regularly pass and discovered the deep reds and yellows of painted clapboard, usually obscured by shrubs and trees. I saw a boat parked in the front lawn as if stranded there after a suburban tide receded. The trees all pointed in a different direction, and I noticed details I never saw when driving the opposite way.
I am an expert at this drive, at this distance, and at these locations. I leave and I return home. I slow at the hairpin turn. And I forget that I don’t always have to follow the same direction, as long as I return back to the place where I belong. I am the messenger bird, poised for an interesting flight, if only I can learn to take notice of the way the winds shift, and the how the sun bears down and the trees turn to greet it.
Life and death abound on these back roads and highway lanes, but the real adventure awaits when I’m willing to simply cross over to the other side of the street. Let me cross and catch the sparks of light, the nuance of color and whimsy and everything pointing in a new direction, a direction which ultimately leads me home.
How are you looking for new ways to experience your everyday?