My 13 year old Nissan Altima, may it live and be well, surpassed the 200,000 mile mark this past week. And as I watched the odometer in anticipation of this occasion I began to think about how our Western society is built around motorized transportation of one sort or another.
Whether one drives, takes a bus or train or even plane, we have created a society that depends on the ability to get from here to there quickly and with ease. In the course of 200,000 miles of driving, most of that commuting to and from work, I burned about 10,000 gallons of gas!
I drive at or below the speed limit in part because I like to take in the scenery around me – the trees in various states of seasonal growth, the nascent wildflower patches slowly slowly coming into bloom, frequent sightings of deer and the occasional red tailed hawk perched on a roadside limb. Once I even saw a coyote with his straight back loping along the side of the road. But no matter how slowly I drive I know there is much I miss.
The past week while walking less than 3 miles per hour in the woods I had ample time to pick and eat wild blueberries, notice types of lichens I had not seen before covering the fragmented rocks on the forest floor and observe a widow skimmer dragonfly stone still on a twig, the first time I saw this interesting insect so up close. Yet ironically, I depend on my car to drive to almost all of the nice spots where I like to hike.
I appreciate my car for safely transporting me 200,000 miles. I thank God for such a loyal vehicle. It has enabled me to get to work and home again as well as drive to so many beautiful fields and forests in which I like to walk. But there is a bittersweet note. No doubt our modern lives would be dramatically different if we were a society primarily of walkers and only occasionally of drivers. But how would each of us individually be different if we embraced the opportunity to truly observe and take in our surroundings whilst traveling at a leisurly 3 miles per hour?