Friday’s Focus—Sidetracked

The roots of the trees veined the road with some pieces poking through like bones; the roots so close to the surface it was just a matter of time before they were revealed by wind, rain, and tires and bleached white by the sun. Between exposed tree roots and ruts cut by heavy rains, driving over 20 mph made the car bounce like a carnival ride. I creeped along gripping the wheel, eyes constantly scanning the road ahead as I craned my neck out the window now and then to try and see around the bend a promise of a smoother road, but all I got was a sore neck and tired eyes.

Crawling along this stretch of road, it felt like the trees and birds were my only company. I continued to scan for holes and hills and eventually relaxed my body into the  roll and sway of the car as it dipped and climbed. Low stone walls appeared here and there broken only by a car-width dirt path leading up into the tree line. The fire numbers were the only other indication that people lived out here.

Isn’t it funny how it seems when we rush the most we find ourselves delayed even more—you’re late for an appointment and you get behind a slow driver; you spill something and you have to change your clothes; you run into construction on the road; your son forgot to fill the gas tank last night when he borrowed the car so now you need to make an extra stop this morning; it’s your turn to bring snacks for your daughter’s homeroom party but she didn’t tell you until the morning of, so it’s an impromptu trip to the market.

Or, you decided to take a side road home because you thought it would be a short cut and instead you find yourself crawling along a worn out road layered in alternating sections of gravel and dirt, and which is taking you much longer than if you just stayed on the road you knew.

I believe in being at the right place at the right time, and if I hadn’t taken that side road and forced to go so slow, would I have noticed the stream making its path down the mountain into a small gully carpeted with moss? Would I have heard the crows’ jeers and the scream of a hawk overhead as it was being harassed by the crows and chased from their territory? Would I have noticed the burst of Queen Anne’s Lace amidst a blanket of ferns? Probably not. And I wouldn’t have noticed the take your breath away beauty of the God sky as I finally came out into a clearing.

What I most likely would have noticed was a road, trees, water, birds, flowers, rocks, and clouds. Just things in my line of vision. If I wasn’t forced to slow down, I probably would have missed the beauty, breathlessness, and the God of what is behind all those labels.

Sometimes it’s not such a bad thing to be late or delayed. More than once I’ve wondered if there was something unknown and unseen that causes these delays for who knows why.

So maybe this time it was to show me—remind me—that there is more to watch and look at then a clock and the next appointment and errand.

p.s. I finally made it home only 10 minutes late, but with views I’ll never forget!

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#takingitdeeper

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Soundtrack of Summer

I can’t believe that Memorial Day is just days away! Summer is thisclose and I’m dazed by how quickly time is passing. Before I know it, I’ll be making plans for Thanksgiving Dinner and Christmas shopping, but until then, my most immediate plans are farmer’s markets, watching the robins pick at the worms in the freshly mowed lawn, and long lazy weekends in the backyard.

I woke up this morning to the familiar warm air and crisp smell of a day when you don’t even have to look at the calendar to know that June is coming. I opened the window wider and leaned my head against the frame, closed my eyes, took a deep breath in, letting my senses take me back as my mind replayed for me in no particular order, the movies of summers past:

Sitting on my parents’ patio with the radio on and a fresh glass of ice tea next to me, soaking up the sun like a lizard and listening to some new singer by the name of Madonna;

Driving around in my parents GMC pacer with the windows rolled down and my red mini-boom box strapped to the passenger seat because there was no radio, blasting Bryan Adams, “Summer of ‘69”;

Working at a private pool for the summer hearing Don Henley sing about the “Boys of Summer”;

Going with my best friend to the local public pool. The air permeated with the smell of chlorine and French fries, and the cries of “Marco” “Polo” were mixed in with Bananerama’s “It’s a Cruel Summer” and the Motels singing about “Suddenly Last Summer”;

I remember days of jumping through a sprinkler because there was no other way to cool off, and when there wasn’t a sprinkler, my husband and I became nine years old again throwing water balloons at each other and chasing each other around the back yard with Super Soakers as the Beach Boys, “In My Room”, Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”, and David Lee Roth’s version of “California Girls” played on the stereo.

I let these memories continue to play as I started my day and headed out the door to go to work, which brought back its own memories of traveling the Garden State Parkway.

Being a Jersey Girl, driving down the shore was a rite of passage with traffic so thick you could hold a conversation with the people in the car next to you for a few exits until the next toll. Strains of music could be heard from each car’s own choice of summer tunes, but nothing, absolutely nothing beats a Bruce Springsteen song on those parkway drives with all the windows down and the volume cranked to the belting of “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive….” Call me jaded, call me old, but I don’t care—when I hear that line, it still makes me smile and gives me goose bumps.

I never realized until today how much of a role music played as a part of those summer memories. Every one of them has a soundtrack—anything by John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and The Eagles; “Summer Breeze,” by Seals and Crofts; “School’s Out,” by Alice Cooper; “Saturday in the Park,” by Chicago, “Under the Boardwalk,” by The Drifters; “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” by Sly and the Family Stone, and on it goes.

My summer soundtrack for this year is still to come and I’m looking forward to creating new memories with maybe some new songs. With this last thought, I made the final turn into the parking lot of my office. Shifting into park, my hand stopped midway to the radio to shut it off when the unmistakable first beats of Mungo Jerry came on the radio…“In the Summer time when the weather is hot…” You’ve got to be kidding. Serendipity at it’s best. I laughed out loud and stayed to listen to the song smiling all the way.

Yeah baby—welcome to summer! What’s your soundtrack?