Out here, we measure distance between places in terms of time--as in, "It is six hours to Dallas," or, "It's ten hours to Houston." I am told, by people who come from geographies less wide-open, that this is not how the rest of the world does it, preferring instead to refer to kilometers or miles when discussing matters of distance.
But there is an old saying about traveling the Great State: "The sun is riz, the sun is set, and here we is, in Texas yet." And at the end of a long, exhausting trip to Fort Worth on business, when I set out for home, it was indeed the time it would take me to cross half the state that I felt most keenly. You know how it is--when you are done with your trip and ready to get back to the homestead, time seems to expand into forever. It slows to an agonizing crawl.
But I like driving in the west. When the horizon stretches out wide in front of you, your thoughts just naturally seem to get wider, too. And so when I finally broke free of the confines of the DFW freeway system and hit I-20, heading west, well my heart opened right up just like those big, grassy plains before me. And so instead of feeling impatient and in a hurry, I relaxed and spent my time thinking about those plains, and just how much I love them. It turned a chore into a very pleasant afternoon. And paradoxically, instead of time crawling, it felt like it proceeded at a pace that was just right.
While on the road, I also thought a lot about the effect that slowing things down can have on our lives. Lately, when I've been feeling stressed and in a hurry, I've been trying to consciously soften the pace of my thoughts and actions, and in the same way that my drive home became a pleasant diversion instead of an onerous chore, slowing down helps me to enjoy the journey. And, also paradoxically, I seem to complete the task much more efficiently and quickly when I don't try to hurry it.
Sadly, I don't have a picture of my windshield view to share, so I offer this one I took at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. With that good central Texas sandstone facing the arches of the pergola in the foreground, that rustic structure in the background, and the big chunk of sky beyond--well, it just looks quintessentially western to me, even without a grassy plain in sight.