Morning Commute: Slice of Life #sol21 2/31

Before, I drove sixty miles across rolling prairie to work. My eyes watched for deer, much more of a danger than other cars. Often I was the only one on the road for long stretches, and my mind wandered. To the details of the landscape, to the podcasts or audiobook that kept me company, to the day’s teaching plans. So often inspiration would strike, and I’d discover an essential piece I didn’t even know was missing from my plan. The last activity should come first, I’d realize. Or I’d recall just the right poem for our quickwrite. Or I’d formulate an essential question that would somehow tie several weeks of work together. I arrived at work refreshed from the sunrise, the meadowlark, the pronghorn, and energized from the revelations about the day’s lesson plan.

Soon, I will drive seven miles south and west on city streets to work. I haven’t made the drive enough yet to know the quickest route, which sequence of turns will cut down on the stoplights and stop signs and get me there a few seconds faster. On prairie highways, seven miles take seven minutes, but in the city, it’s more than twice that. In fifteen or eighteen minutes, the day’s plan doesn’t have much time to percolate and reveal its missing pieces. I will brake for potholes and community cats rather than deer. If I leave early enough, perhaps I’ll spot a raccoon or an opossum. My mind will wander, but I’ll pull it back to the task at hand because city driving demands attention. The sun will rise in my rearview mirror. Eventually, I will catch a glimpse of the river and Canada across it to the south.

32 responses to “Morning Commute: Slice of Life #sol21 2/31”

  1. Commutes are such an important part of our day aren’t they?
    The longest drive I had was over an hour and the short is the one I have now…7 minutes if I hit all the lights! I live 3.5 miles from my school now. It saves on gas for sure but there isn’t the transition from home to school that I had before. Not many podcasts can be listened to during that time either! hahaha
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. The morning commute can have such great impact on one’s day. I can relate with the city driving; it is full eyes on the road, and when you get to the destination, you almost need a little quiet time to relieve your mind. Hoping you can find a route that is a little more chilled with a few less stoplights and potholes.

    • I feel like I’m having to learn how to drive again! I’m not used to paying so much attention, which sounds terrible, because it’s not like I wasn’t paying attention in South Dakota. But there just aren’t as many moving pieces in a rural drive!

  3. You are absolutely right — city commutes take twice as long. But the good news is that with the new directions you’ll have to drive, you won’t have to drive into the sun. It will always be at your back.

  4. Your drive to school will probably be all about getting there quickly and efficiently, but maybe you can map out a couple of pretty drives home. It could mean a softer transition between work and home, and that might be a total treat for you.

  5. I love your structure, before and soon. Having that city commute I have found the trick for morning contemplation is getting to school early. Then you find it in the quiet classroom.

  6. What a contrast you will have in your morning drive! Knowing who you are, I bet that you will easily find joy and inspiration in your new route.

  7. When I first started working I had a 35 minute commute each way. The mornings were great for getting hy head wrapped around what needed to be done during my classes. The ride home gave me a chance to decompress so that any problems that occurred during the day wouldn’t follow me home.

    • I actually love that about a commute–transition time, thinking time, winding up and winding down time. Of course I imagine I will find plenty of things to do with the extra time I’m saving now from only driving for about 35 minutes each day instead of 2 hours!

  8. What catches me here is the last line, “Canada across it to the south.” It is this tiny inversion of the expected – surely Canada should be north – that sums up the feel of discombobulation that comes with your new commute. Interestingly, as your long time reader, I felt a sudden pang of loss, too. I am used to reading about the prairies and the cafe and more from your old life. This March will be an interesting peek into a new situation.

    • I appreciate this comment immensely. I was so very wedded to that line–and to ending on that line–and had no clue why. I just knew it was right. I find the intuitive, subconscious, even unconscious parts of writing so interesting. And I feel the loss of those subjects as a writer as well. But I’m interested to see what I notice and like to return to again and again here in Detroit. (Water, for sure.)

  9. Love this! You really made me feel like I was on the drive with you. Enjoy, even if it is shorter! 🙂 It made me reflect on my previous commutes. My first teaching job was 1 hour and 20 minutes away. Mostly on the expressway through cornfields and woods. Definitely had to watch for deer and other wildlife. And then when we moved I worked only five minutes away. It was so crazy!

  10. Morning commutes are so interesting. In my former space, had a long commute that gave me lots f time and space to muse, consider, and percolate. My current commute takes around 15 minutes and is fraught with potential peril that demands my vigilance. It also doesn’t afford enough time to completely put on the day or in the reverse take it off at the end of the day. The sunrise however is often beautiful.

  11. Elisabeth, it’s such a joy to stop by your blog. You really caught my attention when you were talking about the way our plans percolate as we drive. When I first started teaching I taught at a school that was less than five minutes from my house. In that drive, I dropped off the kids so it was very short with little time to think on the way or decompress on the way back. Several years later, I moved schools and added a twenty minute commute. I always enjoyed the drive. I found it was the perfect amount of time to get my thoughts ready for the classroom each day – and to return to my mom self by the time I got home.

    • 20-30 minutes sounds perfect to me. I like the time to myself to think and to transition from one space and one role to another. And to have time for plans to settle in the morning and be picked over in the afternoon!

  12. Oh Elisabeth, I know exactly what those long morning commutes are like that you describe. They truly do energize you and you write about it so perfectly. The contrast of your commute in the city is so different. I think I would arrive to work frazzled. I don’t know. How do you do it?

    • I am not sure yet, because I’ve never done it! I’ll finally be teaching two days in the building next week and then return in mid-April with the re-opening of the building. I am imagining I will need to get there early! And maybe park by the river and write and think for awhile before coming inside! I realize I’m very spoiled to that long commute with very little that needs my attention besides my own thoughts!

  13. The tale of two different commutes. I wonder although I think I know, which one you prefer. But, maybe I am wrong. I once had to drive an hour from Delaware to downtown Philly to work. I didn’t mind the drive but the length of it – to do twice a day, five days a week was brutal. The job didn’t last long because we moved to Baltimore. But, driving into the city, a big city, does command attention. I think I’d take the 60-mile contemplative drive any day. Thanks for bringing up some wonderful memories of my past commutes.

    • I keep reminding myself that I am going to find more time now that my daily commute will be around 35 minutes round trip rather than 2 hours roundtrip. Even though I loved that sixty mile drive over the prairie, the commute alone did add another entire day to my work week!

      • My experience with the commuting was that it gets “old” very fast, no matter how beautiful the drive. It does make a long day longer! I remember once, I had to travel through 3 states (PA, NJ, and DE) to get home after a meeting in downtown Philly because a bridge was out. It’s a good way to look at the shorter commute – adding time to your week!

  14. Two fabulous posts in two days—you’re on a roll! I know that many of the long drives I’ve had to go on in the past have stuck with me even now, and I hope your new commute lives up at least a little to the old one! Thanks for the wonderful post!

  15. I was puzzled at first, wondering why you’re just starting this new commute. And then I remembered, oh, yes, the pandemic! It will be different, but I know you’ll bring your keen observations even to this much shorter commute.

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