When we first moved to our home, I didn’t so much mind my one-hour commute. I would tell people that if I was going to commute and if I was going to be stuck in traffic, this would be the ideal, with much of my travel consisting of driving through woods and over causeways above the lakes.
In the spring and summer, the greenness and abundance of the trees and the sunlight reflecting off the water and can be pure joy, reminiscent of childhood summer days. In the fall, there are days it seems I am driving through a tunnel of fire when all the leaves are at their height of color and fall upon my path with a reckless kamikaze abandonment. In the winter, the sun peeks through the snow-laden tree branches making the tree line look like a giant piece of lace if I used soft vision, and the water becomes a frozen oasis with people finally getting a bit of Jesus in them and walking out onto the solid water for ice fishing, skating, or just because they can. Being surrounded by such beauty did slow me down for awhile and when I got stuck in traffic, I enjoyed just staring off into the trees as I waited for God knows what up ahead to be cleared and finally being able to drive faster than I could walk.
It’s been over 10 years since we bought the house and though it’s still very beautiful where I live, there are days when the shine has rubbed off. The stress of commuting and the complications that just seems to happen as we get older and life goes on has made the extraordinary became ordinary. Mundane. Being stuck on a curvy road behind a slow driver or a delivery truck for 25 miles or having one-lane closed for construction has become pure torture more days than not.
I hate to say it but I’ve become blinded to the beauty around me when I drive and these once wondrous sites have turned into obstacles I feel I must overcome. I don’t notice the trees so much anymore, focusing instead on craning my neck to see who is at the head of the line creating a parade during prime commuting time and how much longer it will take me to get to my destination. Everything has suddenly become far.
I’ve been a die-hard commuter for as long as I can remember driving and working. A Jersey commuter who mastered the art of driving a stick shift on the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike during rush hour while drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette, perfectly balancing them as I rolled down the window to throw in my token at the tollbooths. It was an art and I was queen.
These days, I rarely travel the Parkway and Turnpike anymore, I quit smoking, and I now drive an automatic (though I still drink coffee in the car), but the commuter queen in me has never really gone away. Yes, I know I could /should take these delays as signs to slow down, but it’s not always so easy. And honestly, sometimes I just don’t want to. I want to get where I’m going!
There is still one thing that takes my breath away and makes me slow down and appreciate where I live that no construction, no Sunday driver, no weather system can ever take away and that is view of the sunrise from my kitchen window.
There are three windows at the back of our house that overlook the backyard and face East. In the morning, as I get ready for the day ahead, I always look out hoping to maybe get a peek of a passing animal or just to see the level of daylight that helps me gauge my degree of lateness! Typically, it’s dark when I get up. A while goes by and I look out the back window and it’s still dark. Then it gets lighter. Shadows. Grey sky. Shadows sharpen into forms. Lighter Grey. And then it happens—the sun climbs over the horizon between the trees and the most awesome pinks and yellows and whites burst open the day. Sunrise. It’s like a lamp gets turned on in the morning that starts the day.
There have been mornings when the sudden beauty of the bursting sunrise has pulled from me an audible gasp but then awed me into silence at the gorgeousness of it all. You want to know if there’s a God or something bigger than us out there? Just watch a sunrise and let’s talk about it afterward. This is when I think, “yeah, this is why I live here” and remember that there is a bigger journey I am on than just the commute from my home to my office.
Sometimes, I’ll lean my forehead against the glass and wonder what windows will I be looking out at 10 years from now and what will I see? 5 years? Next year? What will my scenery be? I have no clue but wherever my windowpane will be and what it will look out onto, I’ll never forget the sunrises.