Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Commute Contemplation

Each day as I drive home from work, I go through a ritual; I descend from the ideal to the real. Let me explain.

I work on a college campus. Though small, the campus has some very beautiful old buildings, and I just love the atmosphere! I love walking outside my office and seeing all the students rushing to their classes. I love hearing the bells toll the time in the clock tower, listening to the sounds of the fountains, absorbing all the flowers, trees, green grass, and walking by all the quaint houses that line Third Street. It’s wonderful!

At the end of my work day, I get into my car, leave the splendor of my little campus and begin traveling down Foothill (part of what was once Route 66—or still is, depending on who you ask). Foothill takes me through some of the Claremont Colleges and I love this part of my drive (except for the lowered speed limit). I love the craftsman-style homes, the beautiful school buildings (I’m a sucker for architecture if you haven’t already guessed.), and again, the overall atmosphere of a college campus.

But within a few minutes, I drive through all of this and into the other side of town. Here, I see hubcap shops, tattoo parlors, and dens of iniquity. There’s some kind of rock quarry, sections of just plain dirt, and nothing that I would describe as beautiful. This part of my commute is ugly, really really ugly.

I leave behind what is beautiful, and drive into what is barren. This has become a metaphor, if you will, for my life: The ideal and the real. And I take this physical and mental journey every day.

But yesterday, I saw something that made me look at things with new eyes. (Don’t you just love when something like that happens?) As I crossed over to the dark side of my drive, I saw a car pulled over, kind of catawampus, in front of one of the, aforementioned, sections of dirt. It was an old car, pretty beat up, and badly in need of a paint job. And it took me a few seconds before I saw the owner of the car, a few meters ahead, in the center of the dirt lot.

There he was surrounded by, well, nothing but mud, and he had set up an easel and was painting — not what was around him, but what he saw in the distance: the majestic snow-capped mountains. He was firmly situated in the “real,” but he was focused on something bigger, something greater than himself, something “ideal.”

Was he physically in the beauty of the mountains? No. But was he mentally? Yes. Did he let his actual situation rob him from appreciating all that this world holds? No. He saw something beautiful, pulled over his crappy car, hauled out his stuff, and began to capture it. The barren spot of dirt was a gift, and gave him an unobstructed view of the mountains!

After witnessing this last night (and almost pulling over to talk to him), I’ve been pondering on what he’s taught me. And I’ve been re-evaluating my life.

Stay tuned for Part II. (Not that this is exciting, or anything. It’s just that it’s going to be a long post, and I don’t know about you, but if I see a lengthy post, I tend to get overwhelmed and not bother reading it. Although, you can, of course, not bother anyway. Although, if you’ve read this far, then you have bothered, and I thank you!)

1 comment:

Mom said...

Liz, what I love about your blog is that when life is hectic and we don't get to talk much I can still be part of what you are thinking and feeling. You have made me really laugh on some of our recent "health Issue" days. But tonight as I read I thought how amazing this experience was...and honey, you are already a writer. This was pulitzer profound! What a great plan for the new year. As one who has talked through the "beauty vs barren" pov with you a few thousand times...this is it...go for it! Love, Mom