From up here, on the crest of the hill, the valley unfolds.
It’s dotted with vineyards, roaming cows, charming restaurants and jaunty hills.
On a clear day I can see acres of blue sky and on a not-so-clear day it’s good too, the coastal fog rolling in and extending its puffy, dark grasp into the landscape.
This view, this valley, has become a regular part of my life for the better part of the last year. Almost every week now I make the trip from Sacramento to Santa Rosa, to my little home away from home.
The first 50 minutes are on I-80, that coast-to-coast interstate that makes for getting places fast. But just as I’m starting to tire of the 10 lanes of concrete and zooming cars, I see my exit ahead–Highway 12–and before I know it the interstate has deposited me into the heart of a beautiful scenic drive through the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
When I get off I-80 there’s always a heady mix of anticipation and release, knowing I’m almost halfway there and knowing I can slow down now, leaning into the curves of the road.
What’s most interesting to me is that I haven’t always slowed down.
Well, of course I have to slow down some because much of it is a two lane road, but I guess you could say my internal motor stays revved up at freeway speeds. And during the first few months of regularly driving this route, I tried to make time. I wanted to get there as fast as I could.
But here’s the thing I learned about making time on this road: you can’t. Invariably there will be something that will slow your pace–road work, weather, detours, accidents, traffic and my personal favorite, a really beat up old truck.
And one day, just as I was cresting that hill I mentioned earlier, the one with the Napa Valley at my back and the view of the Sonoma Valley right in front of me, something happened. It was one of those moments when your throat catches, it’s suddenly hard to swallow, there’s the slightest welling of tears or at least the potential for them.
Because it’s all so incredibly beautiful.
Take your breath away beauty.
Like something so deep is here for you to stop and pay attention to.
That was the day I slowed down.
That was the day I realized that if I raced through this beautiful drive, I’d miss everything that was coming.
Rolling down into the valley. Making the turn for Sonoma. Taking in the nurseries and gardens and sculptures. Stopping for pedestrians.
Gearing up for the last leg of the journey, where the land spreads out, ringed by small mountains, the live oak trees forming an arching welcome over the highway, kind of like two hands steepled together.
And then a few more small picturesque towns–Glen Ellen, Kenwood–until I’m coasting into home now, making the final turn into the driveway. Looking up and seeing the oak trees by the creek spreading out their branches in welcome, this time just for me.
I’m glad I slowed down to savor this. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.
And here’s the craziest thing that came from it–I discovered it doesn’t matter much whether I slow down or speed up or get caught behind an old beat up truck–it still takes about the same amount of time to get home, about two hours, no matter what.
Quite simply, it takes as long as it takes. Like a lot of things in life.
Now that I’m paying attention to this and mostly out of my gotta-get-there-fast mentality, I notice that many of my fellow drivers are not on the same page. More than a few times I’ve cowered in my seat, car hugging the shoulder, because some crazy driver hell-bent on making time has passed (without a passing lane) that old beat up truck and seems doomed to smack head-on into an oncoming car in the other lane.
I wish I could find a way to tell them what I know: It takes as long as it takes. No matter if you get stuck behind the old beat up truck or not.
But of course, I can’t tell them this. And as much as I might gasp and take a quick intake of breath and choke out the words–Oh, this is so crazy–to no one in particular as I witness this almost-catastrophe, I get it.
I get the hell-bent-on-making-time-gotta-go-fast mentality. (Without the insane passing, of course. That was never me.)
I get it because I have been there, on this particular road and on the bigger road of life.
And my saving grace is to keep remembering this: It takes as long as it takes, no matter what.
If you enjoyed this you’ll love my e-letter. Get inspiration, tools and insights that are only for subscribers by signing up here.