This past weekend, I spent an awful lot of time on the road between Little Rock and Hillsboro. In good conditions, the trip is approximately six and a half hours of driving one-way. That’s a manageable clip for me. But the trip is modeled on a strong usage of Interstate 30, a major east-west corridor in the United States. A single accident in either direction can bring the Interstate to a dead stand-still, which it did for my return trip back to Hillsboro. Sandwiched between three eighteen wheelers, on a bridge over a north-south state highway, I got to sit and watch the desperation of people leaving the highway. There people leaving the interstate via the exit ramp – a normal manner of exiting the highway, but there were also people exiting the highway in front of me driving down the ENTRANCE ramp in the wrong direction. Every single one of them was driving as fast as they could down the highway, and then aggressively merging with the traffic headed south bound under my vantage point on the bridge. All in a hurry. All needing to “make up time” from an inconvenience. When traffic flow eventually moved me to a point where I could do the same thing, I chose not to do so. I wanted to get back here to Hillsboro, but I wasn’t in enough of a hurry to take such chances with traffic patterns. Besides, I got the opportunity to just sit and listen to music of my choosing.
Here in America, particularly in the larger cities, we’re all in a hurry. We drive faster than the posted speeds on the roadways. Stop signs are considered to be suggestions. We hit drive-thru lanes with the expectation of being in line less than five minutes total. We hurry to get to places where we don’t really take in the beauty of what is in front of us. Rather, we show up to be seen. The experience isn’t what we are attending. We are the experience.
Sunday, I went to see the new house one more time – some to plot out what bits of furniture are going to go where in the house. Some to take in what change is about to take place in my life. There is not enough furniture in this house in Hillsboro to fill that house in Bryant. I am, once again, moving into a two-story house, so my legs and back will need to deal with several bouts of climbing stairs. Oh, the cats (Gabby and Raven) are going to have fun with that. Neither has lived in anything other than a single-story home. I have a four-tiered patio deck in the backyard. Four tiers. And only a handful of trees in the yard. In all the yards surrounding the house are massive pine trees, among others. But it’s the pine trees that I realize sold me on the house.
Standing in the street in front of the house, I could hear the wind pushing through the pine needles so far above my head. That quiet whoosh is such a familiar sound from my high school days. It’s a quieter sound than the normal push through leaves that one hears with other trees. Living in Shreveport, pine trees were always a constant in the environment. Thinking back, the same can be said about the Rhineland-Palatinate when I was stationed there in the early to mid-1990s.That sound of the wind blowing through the pine needles is unmistakable. As I stood in front of the house on Sunday and just listened, I could feel myself calming. That same sound was the soundtrack of all of those walks in the forests around the Palatinate. The soft thud of footfalls on the thick bed of pine needles on the ground. It was so easy to reach back for those memories standing in front of a home that I’ve yet to make a single memory within.
A few hours later found me sitting on that bridge over a state highway on the outskirts of Mt. Pleasant, Texas. Watching the desperation and anxiety of people trapped in their cars – at a stand-still on a stretch of roadway where higher speeds were meant to be maintained for travel. A roadway that was meant to convey people to their destinations, not have them stopped at a stand-still. Where sitting in my truck, I was trapped between three eighteen wheelers. One in front of me, one behind me, and a third in the fast lane to my left. To my right, just the railing of the bridge. I was headed nowhere. So many others around and near me had the energies of animals trapped and waiting for a hunter to come along and bring an end to their lives. Such a strange feeling being able to feel that energy all around me while sitting in my truck, on a bridge, at a perfect stand-still on the interstate.
Sure, things didn’t go the way I expected during the drive. Yes, I wound up being nearly 90 minutes longer on my journey back to Hillsboro because of the accident that had happened. It certainly was frustrating. But I took a few minutes to stop and think while I was sitting there. Ahead was an accident that had occurred. Apparently it was a horrific event since the interstate was at a standstill. Hopefully, no one was badly injured. Hopefully, its just a damaged vehicle. Hopefully, that vehicle isn’t their only means to be able to make it to their job on Monday. Certainly, someone was having a far worse day than I was. I was just being inconvenienced in time.
In today’s modern society, we measure everything in terms of time. When we set up for ritual, we set a time for things to begin. Instead of being caught up in the energies of celebrating a moment in time with people that are close to us, with people who came to spend time with us, with the Gods…we clock-watch. The time we start ritual becomes an obsession. We frown at those who arrive late, seemingly unaware that unexpected events were likely at play for their tardiness. They should have left earlier. They should have taken a better route. They should have gotten themselves prepared earlier than they did. There are all sorts of ways to look at things like that, but perhaps the most appropriate questions to start with would be: are you ok? Did anything happen on the way here? If it did, how can I help?
In our mad-dash society, where clock-watching is more than a national sport…we forget about others. We also forget about ourselves. We over-schedule our lives. We start to live by Google calendars. We even start to schedule when we are going to spend time winding down.
Time is an interesting concept. Our lives are intertwined with it – whether we like that or not. We have times to be at work. Times that we eat lunch. Times we take breaks. Times that we leave work and head home. We rush, rush, rush through our daily lives. And we miss what is right in front of us….we miss the subtle sound of the wind in the pine needles.