Meaning Mondays: The Smallest Things

UNTIL A FEW MONTHS AGO, I ALWAYS DROVE TO WORK SKIRTING THE EDGES OF THE PARK.

For years I did this without a second thought, because it was the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B. In fact, if you were to Google map the journey from home to office, this is the route you’d be given.

So, like a good commuter, I took it.

But the park. Oh, the park. It was always there. Patient. Waiting. As dependable as the sun rising every day. And even though a stand of trees partially obscured its delights from my view, I knew they were there.

Waiting. Inviting. Calling.

The duck pond. The shaded paths. The WPA gardens. The zoo.

Then one day, for some unknown reason, I answered the call. Instead of going straight, I turned left. And the park welcomed me in.

Now, I wind my way through it each day on my way to and from my office. Although it may add a bit of time to my crosstown journey, it doesn’t matter. Because for a few brief moments, I enter a verdant world filled with flowers blooming, dogs walking their owners, fountains gurgling, kids carousing, and benches beckoning.

And let’s not forget, ducks quacking.

Sometimes, I wonder what the heck took me so long.

But that’s how it often goes, right? We get so busy rushing ahead with our lives that we forget it’s sometimes the smallest things that fill our days with meaning.

The slightest shifts in energy. The tiniest bumps in perception. The most miniscule choices and actions.

Like making a left turn when we could have gone straight.

Got any left turns you could make in your life today?

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32 thoughts on “Meaning Mondays: The Smallest Things

  1. Before I struck out for freedom and left work I used to park up on the edge of town and walk in the last mile and a half (most days).

    I had a choice of routes but I made sure that I either walked through the park or walked along an old railway track (converted to a foot/cycle path) and alongside a canal.

    I thoroughly recommend walking on grass or walking alongside water as often as possible. I don’t regret taking voluntary redundancy – but I miss not taking the early morning walks as often as I used to.

    • What a beautiful picture you paint, DJ. And what a lovely ritual for starting your day. Walking near water is one of my favorite things to do. Ponds, lakes, rivers, canals. But the best for me is the ocean. There’s a beautiful ocean bluff top trail I get to walk on quite frequently in Sonoma County. It’s wonderful. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Patty,

    Stunning piece – verdant, lush prose. Love this gem in particular “But the park. Oh, the park. It was always there. Patient. Waiting. As dependable as the sun rising every day.”

    Am glad you did this! Triple congrats. Another left turn would be to go to work late or blow off work and just hang in the park.

    Way too many people decaying in plastic cubicles.

    This, of course, makes me wonder why work isn’t in a beautiful park, where people might actually get some inspiration to make the world more user-friendly. Why are folks sitting in phony office “parks” all day shuffling silliness around? Who dreamed up this in-humane work setting anyway?

    Folks in historic buildings at least have some interesting architectural details and a spiritual connection to all who inhabited the building before.

    Your post is also kismet! Jimmy and I drove the Pacific Coast Highway a few Christmases ago. We wanted to get out of our Christmas rut of watching kids rip open their gifts and toss them to the side in order to rip open the next Christmas gift. (Perhaps, a gift-wrapped empty box would work just as well?) I started an essay (that is not finished) called: NO LEFT TURN. It slightly touches on what you talk about here and has reignited my desire to finish it …

    I adore your writing. It’s mindful, magical and meaningful!

    Giulietta

    p.s. more of the “garden theme” from last week’s MM post.

    • Hi G – Thanks so much. You’re so kind and affirming, and I adore your writing too. And yes, I’m lucky, since my private practice office is in a wonderful old building, in the midst of an historical neighborhood near the park. No cubicles for me. I often wonder, as you do, why we don’t work outside more often. I get to do it when I’m working at home. Of course, if I’m seeing in-person clients I definitely do not blow off work, but I get to make my own schedule so I have ultimate flexibility. Funny, isn’t it, that it took me this long to extend that flexibility to the drive to the office?

  3. Patty,
    My left turn involves a set of swings in a playground. I don’t get there as often as I’d like because it’s a 45-minute walk both ways. It’s a wonderful spot, shaded by the most stately tree that towers above the park. There are various other play areas and a small game field, but I stick to the swings. It brings back memories of long summers at the farm during school break. Sigh. Thank you for that. :-)

    • Hi Davina – You’ve named one of my own favorite left turns – swinging on the swings. Love, love, love it. I even tell clients to go do it, although they sometimes look at me like I’m a little nutty. Thank you for reminding me of that!

  4. Hi Patty,
    When I used to drive to work, I’d often take the coast hwy as opposed to the more direct route on the freeway. It added a couple more miles to my commute, but it helped me start my day on the right foot.

    One of these days I want to come sit with you on that park bench, listen to the fountain, watch the ducks, and then exchange some stories.

    Thanks, for this bright spot in my day, Patty.
    ~xo

    • Hi Lori! I took the Coast Hwy to work too, back in the day when I lived in SF and worked at Skyline College in San Bruno. That’s so cool you reminded me of that. There was a faster route, but I didn’t care. And you know, I would love to share a bench and a chat and a story with you one day. It’s a deal. Thanks! xo

  5. Yes, the smallest things make such a difference. I love this story. I’m fortunate to have a beautiful route along the Mississippi River as my commute to work. I take note of the people walking, the bikers, the evidence of changing seasons in the trees. It helps me start my day on a happy, peaceful note.

    • Oh, Eva, I love driving along the Mississippi! We used to hop over there on weekends and drive along the River Road when we lived in Wisconsin. Lucky you to get to commute on it. We have a few rivers here in Sac but they pale in comparison. And you know, I’m getting deja vu or something. Lori’s on the Coast Hwy, you’re driving the Mississippi, Davina’s swinging on swings. You’re all bringing up some of my own favorite memories. Whoa. Serendipity is awesome. Thanks!

  6. This is wonderful Patty. I imagine your drive though the park to be very peaceful. I don’t have any parks along my drive to work, but I do have an alternative exit out of my neighborhood. It’s a small two lane road through an older neighborhood. We almost always choose to take that road instead of the four lane state road that it parallels. The county closed our little side road for some drainage improvements, and it’s been closed for several weeks now.

    My wife and I both commented on how much we miss this alternative to the bustling main road. This weekend we were so excited to see that the road was open again. My wife noticed it at the last minute and took a sharp 90 degree turn to reunite with our little road. That joy was short lived as we realized they started working on the next section and closed it off just over the hill. Hopefully they’ll finish up their improvements soon.

    • Good story, Eric! I can feel the sheer will of your wife to get back to that little road when she makes her 90 degree turn. Isn’t it fascinating how we’re all yearning for the small things? I think everyone is so tired of big – highways, houses, cars, you name it – and these small adjustments we make really do create a more meaningful life. Instantly. Thanks for the visit.

  7. Ducks be cool, man. I like ‘em with their ungainly, awkward waddling. So full of pluck, full of life and vim. Love ‘em! :D

    There are plenty of ducks at the city gardens where I live. We really ought to visit there more often because it’s a wonderful, twisty turny, meandering sort of place to be… which is just how I like it. It’s kind of like my thought life that way. :)

    • Hey man, I’m with you on that. And our neighborhood is bursting with ducks, because we’re near the river and the canal. They wander around the streets, especially during duck dating days. And it’s always something like three boy ducks to one girl duck. Hmmm, what’s up with that?. But I digress. Go, my friend, go to the ducks. That’s exactly the kind of left turn I’m talking about!

  8. I live in paradise, I do NOT drive to work and yet things are always waiting, inviting and calling, we can always do more.
    This afternoon the winter sun was out while we had lunch.
    Did I notice, not for a while, being conditioned to eat and then get back to work, I was NOT fully making my collage in that moment. However I am privileged that my environment has a very loud calling as I live in it, that does help. xox Wilma

    • Ah, I like that Wilma. Even in paradise we have to pay attention to the small things, right? Sounds like you’re doing an awfully good job with that, my friend. xox

  9. Will be taking my kiddo to the county fair today. Tomorrow we leave for a 5 day family reunion in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Can’t wait. It will be one small meaningful moment after another!

    • I love county fairs! And I love the Black Hills of South Dakota! One of my most memorable vacations was all over the Black Hills. Custer State Park. The scenic drive at dusk. Wildlife galore! Bison! Prairie dogs! (I might have mentioned once I have this thing for prairie dogs). Wow, Angela, more deja vu and serendipity. And as always, you’ve filled your life with a heck of a lot of meaningful moments. Thanks for the visit!

  10. Patty,

    First of all, My machine running slow today and so it took your picture a few seconds to become clear.

    I thought it was kind of cool. I watched it as the duck came into focus and then everything was perfectly clear. I like it when life does this too:~)

    I liked this post and I’m glad you now drive through the park regularly. Regarding your question, we have lots of Florida geese (they moved from Canada) in my neighborhood. There are times when I’ve been in a rush to get someplace only to arrive at lake road and have to stop for the geese.

    At first, I’m impatient, but then I laugh with enjoyment. They are so funny when they walk slowly across the street. They remind me to slow down and enjoy the “honks”:~)

    • Hi Sara – That’s neat about the pic. And the geese! When I visited the park to take the photo, the geese outnumbered the ducks by far. They’ve taken over! But I adore geese too, and actually had a very funny geese encounter as a child, which makes me laugh to this day. Lovely to see you here today.

  11. Hi Patty! Oh aren’t you glad you listened to the call? I take the long way to town – it’s not thru a park but it’s what I call The Peaceful Way. It’s slower, but that’s a good thing. Today when I was painting the bedroom, instead of hurrying, I actually went as slowly as I could, just taking my time. You know what? I didn’t get tired!
    hugs
    suZen

    • Hi suZen – That’s such an important insight. It’s so true, when we slow down, take our time, we actually accomplish more. And we don’t get all burned out and tired. I love that you call your route, “The Peaceful Way.” Very, very sweet. And hugs right back at ya.

  12. Hi Patty, I agree. The smallest things are really not so small. They get obscured and are easy to ignore in the hustle and bustle of the everyday but they are delithful little things. The hardest part is noticing them; knowing they’re always been there.

    Left turns? The Presidio where I work only has a few entrances but lucky me, it’s a vast acreage of beautiful park.

    Left turns in life? I think veering off any prescribed path makes us feel more alive. It’s a good thing that they get thrust upon us anyway even when we’re less inclined to seek them out.

    • Oh gosh, Belinda, I didn’t know you worked at the Presidio. Wow, wow, wow. Another one of my favorite places. The bridge! The forest! The Warming Hut! Fort Point! Chrissy Field! I adore walking at Chrissy Field. So another trip down memory lane for me today. And I couldn’t agree more with what you say about those left turns getting thrust upon us. Thanks!

  13. Hello Patty,

    Like you, I was all about “getting there”, intent on my destination and not seeing all of the beauty that I was literally passing by. Thankfully, I don’t do that any more. There’s so much around us that will enrich our lives if we’ll just “slow down”, look and listen.

    Patty, thank you for this beautifully written reminder to embrace the destination, not just the destination.

    • Hi Keith – Welcome! So nice of you to stop in and visit. I love what you say about the life enrichment to be had by slowing down, even on our way to work. It makes a huge difference. Thanks so much for your kind and generous comment.

  14. Thanks for this Patty — one similar “small” thing I’ve noticed is that, on a day when I find myself taking in the tops of the trees around me, rather than just the roots and trunks, somehow I know it’s going to be a day of joy and clarity.

  15. Pingback: Love and Work | Why Not Start Now?

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