I was embarrassed by my Dad’s 1939 Buick, inherited from his father. My friends drove around in normal cars with big fins, or in station wagons. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed those Sunday afternoon drives through the countryside north and west of Souderton, Pennsylvania.
Sometimes a couple of my parents’ friends or one of my girlfriends accompanied us. At other times, Dad, Mom and I toured the countryside by ourselves. Often the ostensible purpose was to look at an especially lovely field of wheat or barley which Dad the feed man had heard about. But I loved those drives for their own sake. I loved them also because my Dad was at his most relaxed.
Sometimes we took along a picnic lunch and Dad’s portable grill. We’d find a roadside table and I’d sit there reading a book while he heated up the charcoal and grilled the burgers. We ate them with Mom’s wonderful potato salad, “her own” applesauce, and a piece (or two) of shoofly pie or funny cake….
Now on many Sunday afternoons after the Jays game is over, Sam and I head northwest out of Kitchener-Waterloo into rural Woolwich and Wellesley townships – our own version of the Sunday afternoon drive.
Those drives calm my spirit and help me hone the spiritual practice of paying attention.
In springtime I notice a solitary tree with leaves partly unfurled, standing tall against the huge blue sky. I take in the intense greenness of pastures and trees.
I look for changes from week to week, as we usually follow a similar route. One week I can barely see the tiny blossoms on the apple trees at Martin’s Family Fruit; by the next week they’re in full bloom. One week I look at bare fields and smell manure, obviously spread recently. By the next week, green shoots appear.
I search for the flock of sheep just past the buggy bridge by the St.Jacob’s dam. Will they be in the pasture on the river flats this week, or rather on the steep green hill on the other side of the road? Are the Old Order youth still playing baseball at the schoolhouse up the road, or have they gone home by now to do the chores?
I’m astonished to come across a pasture of lounging alpacas, having never seen any locally before. I assure myself I wasn’t dreaming when we look for them again the next week, and behold, there they are.
I take in the signs for maple syrup and greenhouse plants at the end of farm lanes, and anticipate choosing gladiolas in a riot of colours at “3 stems for a dollar” later in the season.
Our drives these past weeks whisper springtime wisdom and wonder to me. They show me the natural order of the universe.
How, I wonder, do those leaves “know” when to unfurl? What gives the apple trees the energy to blossom? What makes grazing sheep and alpaca take full advantage of that intensely green grass? And why is it that Old Order Mennonites grasp better than I do the need for a pause day, with “No Sunday sales”?
In the midst of all this musing, suppertime creeps up on Sam and me. Alas, we don’t have a charcoal grill. There are no roadside tables on our route. And even if there were, I wouldn’t have the patience to sit there and wait for my supper.
However we do sometimes look for an ice cream cone on the way home to our leftovers….
Questions for Reflection:
- In what way (if at all) does driving or biking through the countryside calm your spirit?
- In what way (if at all) does being in natural settings help you hone the practice of paying attention?
Next week: Welcoming the Dawn