52 Ways To Shift Your Focus

Shift #11: Don’t Take the Freeway

Every once in a while, my annoyance with a culture that wants everything done right now boils over. Coupled with the sheer inundation of information that shows up in my inbox every day and people in my life who won’t wait for anything, I just want to stop. Everything. And. Be. In. The. Moment.

Which leads to the other day, when I had lunch with a friend in Minneapolis. I decided that I wasn’t going to rush back to my computer. Normally, I would have left the Midtown Global Market, where we met, and taken Hiawatha to I-35W to Highway 36 to home. Easy 15-minute drive. But I needed to sink into the moments between lunch and work, loosen the coil of my so-called schedule. I needed  to digest my food as well as what we discussed, and let my mind wander a little, like a kid at after-lunch recess.

So I drove right down Lake Street, which, if you know Minneapolis, is a slow way to go. There are pedestrians, cars, buses, bicycles, dogs, baby strollers, wheelchairs. There are stoplights, lots and lots of stoplights. There are Somali women in flowing robes that catch the breeze, halal markets, blocks where all the shop signage is in Spanish, Nice Ride bicycle stations, Merlin’s Rest (my son’s favorite British-style pub), restaurants that offer cuisine from all over the world. There are funky little shops, auto repair garages, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre, coffee houses, bank branch offices. In short, an entire thriving world that’s not visible from the freeway.

I rolled down my window and let all the city sounds flow into my car. I really looked at the neighborhood around me, noticed who was smiling and who was in such a damn hurry that they couldn’t be bothered with eye contact. It dawned on me that this alternate route home is exactly what my father might have taken. I remember how he tried to tell me that the scenic route was always the way to go.

At the Mississippi River, which generally divides Minneapolis from St. Paul (except for a little area near the University of Minnesota), Lake Street ends and Marshall Avenue takes over, linked by a bridge that has hosted weekly peace vigils since 1999. Once in St. Paul, the street becomes more residential with less bustle. Grand old houses line both sides of the street. The sounds change to something softer, the pace slows.

Once I arrived back home, I thought about how I don’t take the side roads as often as I used to. When I first learned to drive, I never went on the freeway. And I’d like to get back to that feeling of not being so tightly scheduled, of knowing that the work will be there whether I take 15 minutes to get somewhere via freeway or 30 minutes to go via city streets.

Here’s what I know for sure. The scenic route invites a different way of seeing the world through which we travel every day, the one that gets so familiar we forget what’s there. 

Shout-Out for a Fellow Writer

My friend and Every Day Poets colleague, Oonah V. Joslin, has a new piece of flash available for download through Ether Books Mobile Publishing. It’s called “Plot in the Twist”. Please go check it out, download the free app (for your iPhone, iPod, or iPad), rate the piece. She has a few others that she mentions in her blog today, Parallel Oonahverse.

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6 comments

  1. We almost invariably take the slower more scenic route and it pays dividends. Kangaroos, cockatoos, gardens… I do it on foot as well, and all bus routes here meander through the suburbs to get to their destinations. Which suits me just fine.

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