Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slow Down

Recently, I received a citation.  No, not a writing award - a speeding ticket, my second in two years in New York.  I've received three tickets in my driving career, all of them in New York.  I've lived and driven all over the country, countless road trips have taken me through all fifty states.  I've even driven in Europe.  I commuted to school and work in cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta.  Some of the worst gridlocks in the country.  But, all my tickets, all three, were received in the Empire State.  I don't live in New York (although I did live in the Adirondacks for a short time back in the 90's) but I seem to attract state troopers like magnets.  My first and third violations were for speeding when I was en-route to the airport to pick up my husband (I've been running late for that poor man for nearly twenty-five years now...sorry, Darling).  The second violation was for driving too fast on the way home from my mother-in-law's funeral...I had a hernia at the time, and it was killing me (no pun intended...sorry, Jane).  All three times, I was following the stream of traffic, but as luck would have it, I was the one chosen to be pulled over. 

But, that's not my real problem.

After receiving my last ticket, I did some soul searching and decided, I needed to slow down.  I drive too fast.  And maybe, even though others were driving at the same pace as me, that was no excuse.  This was karma, or a warning, of some sort, that something bad was going to happen if I didn't slow down.  Things happen in threes, I'd heard that my whole life and this might be a warning from above, a sign from somewhere, that if I don't slow down, something worse than receiving a ticket might happen.  I've been following the speed limit for several months now.  I've also been tailed, honked at, sworn at and threatened everywhere I've gone.

One man, and I know he was a man, even though it was late at night on a dark country road, but I could clearly see his angry face in my rear view mirror as he followed me so close, that I could no longer see his headlights, they actually disapeared under my car and I felt like I was towing him.  The speed limit was 25 MPH.  I finally gave in and increased my speed to 30 and then to 33 MPH.  But, that seemed to just make him more incensed.  The route was a tight, winding two-lane road through hills.  I was scared, to say the least.  And felt shaky and upset when finally, he made a right turn onto what I could only imagine was his street, where again, I imagined, his wife waiting for him, so she could start pushing during her home water birth, which he was now late for, since he decided to finish his emails at the office before getting stuck behind me.  Why else would he be so tense?  Why else would he have been so mean?  It had to be something very important that I was keeping him from...right?

I've been nearly run off the road by teenagers, elderly people, Mom's driving vans full of children, school buses, and I was even tailed closely by a policeman in my own town.  People!  I'm going the speed limit.  It's posted everywhere!  And I'm going to continue to go the speed limit.  On the Interstate, I now travel in the slower right lane.  Semi-trucks whiz by me, tour buses fly by, late date cars that look like they are barely running, speed by me.  I've been passed, given the finger, spit at, and almost side-swiped.  I was even passed-up on a two-lane road by a student-driver, the instructor looking very satisfied, as they passed by, like I'd given him the wonderful opportunity to teach his student how to pass a slowpoke.  He was the only person pleasant to me since I started going the speed limit.  I won't tell you what the farmer on a tractor yelled to me, when he pulled up next to me at a traffic light.  It was not pretty.  In all these cases, I increased my speed by five miles per hour, as soon as I was being tailed and sometimes as much as ten miles per hour.  I've come to find that once someone is tailing you, they make a commitment to continue the harrassment even if you speed up.  Did I do this to people too?  Probably.  But, I don't do it now.  I'm careful to keep a safe distance between me and any cars in front of me.  And when I do come upon a fellow speed limit participant, I feel so happy that for the moment, I'm not alone and we can travel together, going the speed limit, like two safe ducks in a row.  Here are some things I practice these days:  

  • Leave with plenty of time to arrive on time
  • Enjoy the sights along the way
  • Listen to my favorite music
  • Pull into a parking lot if I need to use my phone, even though I have speaker capabilities
  • Feel no pressure when I see traffic is slowing to a crawl
  • Realize the NYC bridges don't feel so dangerous when I'm driving at a reasonable speed
  • Patiently wait in long toll lines
  • Stop at every crosswalk where there is a pedestrian waiting to cross
  • Not stress when a train is passing
  • Handle any weather conditions with ease
  • Enjoy a lower heart rate along the way
  • Arrive calm and ready to do what I need to do at my destination

Granted, I've had to learn to ignore angry, irritating fast drivers, passing me, giving me 'the look', cutting me off (no problem, I account for them and apply my brakes a bit to let them get by).  I will admit it was hard at first, I do care what people think, but in a way, driving slower, has helped me not care so much.  Slowing down has made me see the world differently.  I see the beauty of the land around me and find my way easier, because I don't whiz past streets I was supposed to turn down.  I'm calmer.  I'm actually on time more often than not now.  My heart rate feels normal all day, not racing all the time.  I have more energy.  I find myself parking further away, because I have the time and therefore get more steps into my day.  I take the stairs more often now and hold the door open for other people.  I generally feel nicer and happier.  Try it for a week, then for two, and before you know it, you'll be slowing down too.  It's not such a bad thing.  It doesen't make us more important to be rushing about, in fact all it does is put us in danger.  Danger of an accident, or an anxiety attack, our hormone levels shoot up and crash back down making us sick.  Just slow down.  Leave early.  Go the speed limit.  And if not, please just go around those of us who are going the speed limit, who have chosen to listen to the warning and slow down.  We're not trying to make you crazy.  We're just trying to get there in one piece, and maybe avoid another ticket or worse yet, an accident.  

If only the whole world could slow down with me, so I can get home safely to my life on the lane.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leafy Lane

This time of year makes me feel lucky to live in such a beautiful place. New England is alive with color in the fall, and while we batten down the hatches, and prepare for the inevitable snow storms ahead, it's also a time for reflection and the total enjoyment of nature. It's particularly lovely on our lane, the trees are rich with fall colors. You only have to go out your door in Connecticut to feel immersed in the foliage, especially in the northern parts of the state. Here in my town, everything is about the trees and each fall, the colors become more vibrant every day -- Mother Nature draws you into her open arms, wrapping you in giant quilt of spectacular hues of yellow and orange and red. You find yourself in awe at every turn, trees that stood quietly all summer, their green leaves shading the ground beneath, are now a kaleidoscope of brilliant contrasts of glittering brilliance. And when the leaves begin to fall, they scatter like confetti across sidewalks and roads and meadows, blanketing the woods. It's a symphony of sights and sounds so lovely, it can bring a tear to your eye. On sunny days, a walk down a peaceful, winding, country road, is a concert in nature. The birds wile away the day with musical melodies (my son just gave me that line :) perched high on one hundred year old branches, as if a song was in order to celebrate yet another autumn afternoon. Gentle breezes tickle the tall dry grass and dance through the trees adding a background of light percussion. Suddenly, after a humid summer, everything feels new again, the cool air clears your mind, making way for fresh ideas. Ah, fall...a time for renewal, for change.  I sit here in my kitchen, glancing out the window, which is wide open to the side yard, listening to the sounds of nature, knowing that each moment from now on, is precious, as my youngest child races towards graduation and will be off to college in less than a year. Will autumn feel different next year? Will it be sad? Or will next fall bring new adventures, a fresh start? Nature will have to carry me through. I'll go for long walks, and ponder my future, while enjoying the trees of Connecticut one last time before moving to Belgium and a new life, post-children...on another lane, in another part of the world, where the leaves might not be quite as brilliant, but there will be places to explore and things to discover, and best of all, I'll be joining my husband for all those new walks. Til life on the lane is deep into fall and I want to walk in the leaves before the sun sets each day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Faraway Lanes

Talk about lovely lanes!  Just returned from a road trip through seven countries in Europe, all of which possessed some of the most beautiful narrow, cobblestone streets in the world.  Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Munich, Brussels...street after street just made me think about how everywhere, down winding country roads, through vineyards and corn fields, uptown, downtown, near main squares, and historic monuments, around the corner and on the edge of town...there are quiet, private, simple lanes with homes or flats or apartments or lofts, with flower boxes, brick fronts, stained glass, ancient heavy doors, brass knockers and rod-iron gates, new buildings juxtaposed against centuries old structures, all possessing mailboxes, an address, an owner, a landlord.  Down every lane, there are people living their lives, moving through the day, no matter where, no matter the time, life is going on in different languages, other time zones, at varying paces.  Children are dropped at daycare, people rush to the train, neighbors wave, some ride bikes, the elderly walk slow, teenagers run by, some sit and wait, others glance out  windows, joggers jog, streets are swept.  They stop for coffee, they read the paper, they have a quick chat.  Cellphones are flipped open, the trash is taken out, the car parked, dishes done, mail checked, bills paid, floors cleaned.  Time cards are kept, onions chopped, tomatoes diced, meat is browned, oven heated, phone calls returned, letters opened, TV turned on, the wine cork popped, bathtub filled, a load of laundry done...another day, all around the world, the sun is setting, the sun is rising, time is marching, and people are living, down the way, over a few blocks, on the other side of town, in another state, on a different continent, along all kinds of lanes, dirt paths, a culdesac, at the corner, behind a fence, on the top floor, next to their friends, or all alone.  Everyone is dwelling somewhere, moving along, getting ahead, falling apart, picking up the pieces, starting over, just beginning, or staying the same...whichever, however, with whomever, together, broken, healing, spinning, surviving...everyone is doing life...down the way, in their own way, out of the way, or trying to find their way, they're plugging along, pulling the weeds, mowing the lawn, painting the trim, letting it all go or tending to every inch.  The thing we all have in common, the thing that interconnects us, is that we're all trying to find our way, sometimes forward, most of the time back, but always, always, at the end of the day, we head home to our own place, to our own life on the lane.     

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My First Post: A Muggy World for Me...

It's the end of July, and summer is in full, humid's not always so hot and muggy in this part of New England during the summer...but this year is different, and it seems as though Mother Nature has decided to over-moisturize the entire region. My garden is sagging, the cicadas are buzzing at high-volume, air-conditioners are blasting, and despite the cool temps inside, the heat lightening and thunder keep me awake most nights. Living on the east coast, the seasons are well-defined, and I look forward to each new segue of nature...the sprouting of leaves in the spring, the warmth of long summer days, the changing of the guard in fall as vibrant colors act as a prelude to the first signs of winter's quiet symphony of snow fall. But, it seems as though summer is cheating me out of her usual warm and sunny disposition, and instead, her mood swings of heavy clouds and sultry temperatures have kept me off my porch on weekend afternoons, and inside on the treadmill when cloudbursts threaten my walks to town. I'm trapped inside as if it's winter all over again. I guess, then, it's good that I'll be traveling soon to where summer is behaving itself and the temperatures are more pleasant. My Life on the Lane had better be back to normal, weather-wise...when I return!