I stopped driving my car as much as I could when I caught sight of my face in the rear view mirror one day and realized how terribly angry I looked. Furrowed brow, squinty eyes, unbecoming purplish tinge to my cheeks. Driving made me furious and frustrated. This revelation first occurred in Berkeley, California on highway 80 which is terminally congested and after the one hundredth traffic jam wishing I could just climb out the window and abandon my car, I suddenly realized that I could just walk the three miles to work and blithely avoid it all. For ever. And since then I have tried to walk as much as I can.
Slowing it all down. Isn’t that why we supposedly move to the country? But most people I know are still living at the same frenetic pace they did in the city. Perhaps it’s because I am blessed with Italian genes. La Dolce Vita. That whole hedonism thing. Enjoying life, tasting life, living life. Sure I’m broke but I’m out of the rat race. I made a decision a couple of years ago to not do as many things that I didn’t want to do. I cut it back to one or two every twelve months. This does not mean that I am a selfish person intent on her own pleasure it just means that I ask myself if I want to do it (whatever ‘it’ is) and if the answer is no and my opting out causes no one any harm, then I opt out. It’s marvelously freeing. I have or I had a fatal tendency to say ‘yes’ to everything whether it was an imposition on my valuable time or not, and I just don’t do that anymore and no one seems to have noticed. Phew!
Kids (or having them) are good for this sort of loose existence because the first thing you have to let go of upon introducing children into your life is rigidity. Flexibility is key or you’ll drive yourself crazy. You must come to terms with the fact that it may take five times as long to get out the front door with a couple of small people in tow, AND THAT’S OK. Deep breaths. You’ll get there in the end and if you don’t, it’s alright.
So one of the great things about being on foot and having a block of 1 1/2 to 2 hours to walk every morning before I sit down in front of the computer, etc…is that you notice things that pass in a blur when you’re in a car. Like that one perfect, brilliant red maple leaf in a bed of golden pine needles. And the smell of what can only be gently cooking leaves in the warm sun. How sharp all the colors seem- especially outlined against a perfect azure sky. And those leaves that are peach-tinted, all golden and pink-blushed. And the huge pileated woodpecker I saw hacking at a tree with his mallet beak. And the tiny dead, velvet-robed shrew that I bent over, marveling at its clever pink paws, its questing prehensile nose stilled. I pushed him into a pile of leaves with the toe of my shoe as if I was tucking him into bed. And the hawk, in its winter plumage presaging cold days ahead, mantling on the telephone pole. And the crows mobbing it mercilessly and their cousins, the smaller jays heckling with shrill cries from a safe distance. And all the streams, full again for now, splashing over the rocks. And those rarely glimpsed dapper, red squirrels with their white waistcoats that must be a different species. In a car you miss it all.
There are nine immensely tall fir trees that we pass by every day. They darken the road beneath and they drop their needles and make the footing soft and slippery. They seem so ancient that, barring the continent we’re in, I can well believe that they are King Arthur and his knights frozen in time until they are needed again. The funny thing is that Lucy insists on touching them, one after the other. She places her hand on the rough, fissured bark, sometimes she knocks, and she gets very upset if I try to hurry her away, so I don’t. Remember the flexibility rule? Plus knocking on wood is always a good thing in my book.

2 thoughts on “CARS AND TREES

  1. I remember reading about a dad who decided that he would let his son take the lead on their daily walk to the shops. Instead of the journey taking the usual 10 minutes, it took about 2 hours.

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