A few months ago I left the city to return to the Oregon Coast. Leaving the spiraling, urban sprawl of 600,000 for a quiet fishing village of 900. The return to a simpler place and a less frantic pace has allowed me to breathe for what seems like the first time in years.
I return to the city twice a month, for now, to help out at the coffeehouse I used to own. I work two shifts in a little more than 24 hours and I get to see many people who were part of my daily routine over the previous 10 years.
I am asked time and again "Do you miss it?" and the answer, without hesitation is "No."
Now, I left the urban sprawl and static once before, years ago. And, after five years in a similar small town, I felt I had to get back to where things were "happening".
So what is different this time? Most people would tend to put it down to little more than the fact that I am 10 years older?
In retrospect, I think it is simply that I realize the site of the crossroads when I am at them now.
In any lifetime, I believe we come to those crossroads again and again.
Many times over actually.
Some large and some small
Some almost daily.
But all of them are marked by choices we make or have to make and then, by the directions we turn. Often we do not turn. We just plow ahead with no acknowledgment that we are even passing through one or slowing to think about where the other road might lead.
We think that the slick, well paved highway we are on must lead to a better place than that little dusty road that transects it. But that well paved road was once just dirt and gravel too.
When I return to the city, I walk about 25 minutes from the train station to the coffeehouse. Crossing through downtown and then across the river into the old industrial SE area of the city. I pass by hundreds of people going about their day. Some walking firmly with each step a foot-fallen vow to "make it" and some stumbling along just barely making it.
And I fee l this hanging, smoldering presence pressing down on so many of those I pass.
They've all reached the crossroads in life too.
Many did not think to slow down at all.
Most did not turn.
They just kept on going.
They made choices at each crossing whether they know it or not
And they are living out the result and destination of their choices.
Yes, it gets harder to go back each time
I am grateful to have seen the signs
To have known when the time was right
And to have turned down this little dusty road where few would think to turn
Off of the fast track
Leading to a place where I belong
Where I can slow down