I had the chance last week to spend several hours driving to my family’s house in Cincinnati, where I was raised but haven’t lived for two-thirds of my life. It was a clear, hot day, and it was a five-hour trip that stretched to six hours for no good reason other than there was heavy traffic in several spots in the middle of a Friday afternoon in the middle of cornfields in Indiana where there was no construction OR reason for heavy traffic. (Go fig.)
On the trip back two days later, I found myself hitting the same clogs in virtually the same spots … and peeled-off to a road far-less-travelled than the interstate, just to NOT be crammed-in by wall-to-wall cars flying along at sixty mph in anxious close-order unison.
The alternate route still took an extra hour to get me home – but no more than that. I could see for miles. I was still travelling at sixty miles per hour. There were, at most, eight cars in sight (total, both directions) at any given moment.
It was fantastic.
There is something wildly therapeutic about driving and being able to TUNE OUT – just being allowed to let the miles go by and think my thoughts. I discovered this in spades two years ago on a two-day trip from Chicago to MtRushmore: car all packed, supplies for fifteen hours of driving, an iPod loaded with music to counter the anticipated tedium of hundreds of miles worth of wheat fields in Minnesota and South Dakota … and I turned the iPod off after the second hour.
I remember being especially impressed the second day by the simple majesty of the scenery in South Dakota: expecting a lot of boring agricultural land, but seeing GRAND GORGEOUS OPENNESS on a scale I’d never considered – rolling hills and an amazing horizon at least ten miles away that I could JUST BARELY get my head around the challenge of absorbing – and then, once that was processed, letting my mind just run free until coming to … the next vista. The only thing that would have made any of those moments more perfect would have been to stop and look at the view and contemplate and say “wow” – and have someone standing next to me look, and understand the moment also, and get to hear them say “wow – me, too”.
I don’t recall a great number of exceptional thoughts, either this last weekend or on the drive to the Black Hills … except that I remember the time flying by, and remember my mind being QUIET instead of barking at me to do this or do that or not forget something about work, and remember being able to process thoughts of my choosing about my life, and my family, and what I want to do with myself and anyone else in my immediate vicinity in a few years when I start doing something other than my job as it is now – such as travelling more and working a little less. It was energizing, and it happens too rarely for me, and it beats almost any other form of therapy for value or efficacy.