Monday, October 27, 2014

The Road Less Traveled

I was beyond late when I got in my car on Saturday to drive up to my writers’ critique group retreat. As a result, I had every intention of taking the highway and shaving time off my trip. 

Then the sunshine hit my windshield. Sunshine I’d been craving for several days. As I took in the fall foliage along Queen Street on my way to grab my Starbucks, I thought about how pretty the drive up would be if I took my usual route.

I grabbed my chai and got back in my car.

And got on the highway.

In my defense, I started out on the scenic route, but as I drove through town, hitting most of the lights along the way, I began to rethink my decision. There were plenty of row houses and quite a few people who’d make interesting characters for a book (and were probably already interesting characters in their own right), but the slow pace did little to convince me that the scenic route was the better choice. 

As I contemplated more stop-and-go driving along the way to the destination I’d hoped to arrive at hours before, I grew more impatient and decided, in essence, that sometimes the road less traveled by is overrated.

Life’s like that, I guess. There are things we need to do things quickly and things we need to do well. The perfectionist within cringes at the need for speed, but the practical part of my personality prods me too, reminding me that life requires balance. Doing routine things quickly leaves us time to linger over the things that matter, working painstakingly on them until they are just right. 

And so it was with my trip. Taking the scenic route might have been balm for the soul had I left an hour or two earlier, leaving time to savor both the trip and the projects at the journey’s end, but once that window of time had closed, the drive became something I needed to do quickly in order to allow maximum time to do my writing well. 

As it turns out, I got a few fall benefits despite my need for speed. The foliage at the end of my drive, just before I got to the park, was just as beautiful as what I’d have seen had I taken my usual route. And thanks to a phone call from my daughter less than a mile before my turnoff, I ended up missing my turn and driving past the boating area, a detour that allowed me to take in not just trees dressed for fall, but two views of the lake as well. Had I thought of it, I could have pulled up a picnic table, unpacked my laptop and written right there, but by that point, I’d left all spontaneity behind, lost to the nudge of the ominously ticking clock.

Sometimes, when we take ourselves too seriously, getting weighed down in time and place and routes and destinations, we forget that we might just be exactly where we’re supposed to be.

Photo credit: Dianne Uscowskas Crawford

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