I had a brief visit with “Mr. Scruffy” as I rode in to work one day. It was good to see him. He was perched on his regular lamp post as he scanned his domain. I was blessed to live on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound, northwest of Seattle, WA. The Northwest has many beautiful sights to behold. There are the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Range, the San Juan Islands, the Puget Sound itself, and the many types of wildlife that grace our landscape. In my neighborhood, there are at least 30 Bald Eagles that live much of the year within about 5 miles of my home.
That day, I set a new eagle spotting record, for me, as I drove to work in Coupeville. I counted 7 eagles perched in various trees along my way. There were 5 white crowned mature eagles and 2 immature eagles. I was looking for them on my familiar drive into the office. With every sighting my heart felt joy and I felt that nature was allowing me a special moment. (FYI, I have become familiar with some of my special neighbors and my wife and I named “Scruffy” because he appears older and unkempt compared to some of the younger mature eagles we see. But know that “Mr. Scruffy” is beautiful when he flies. He reminds me of Peggy Fleming, the ice skater, because he is graceful, elegant and without wasted effort as he soars the winds over Whidbey Island.)
I am in my tenth year of living in the Northwest, having moved from Sonoma County in California’s “Wine Country.” Sonoma County is also a beautiful place to live, though traffic and increasing population has added challenges to that part of our world. There are no Bald Eagles in my old neighborhood, but there were many other magnificent features of nature. Sonoma County has grand Redwood trees, amazing coast line, rolling pasture lands, oak grass lands, and of course, the vineyards that are picturesque any time of the year. Though I am vigilant when I am driving, I celebrate the beauties of the natural world when I drive down all but the most congested of roads.
In my first book, I coached “commuters” to play a game as they drive to or from work. Within the common sense limits of safety, I ask them to look out into their world and notice something new on every commute. Or, I ask that they find an aesthetically pleasing natural, or even man made, object to celebrate. Perhaps a pleasing or unique cloud formation or a classically designed house or building. Maybe a special vehicle drives by. Or for me, the noticing of birds or wildlife makes me appreciate the present moment of time. And that is the lesson… release your thoughts of past or future events and bask in the present moment, in a “positive” way. Smile as you celebrate the sharing of a special and unexpected sighting. At the end of your commute, whether arriving at work or at home, you will feel less stressed and better focused to get on with the next activities of your day.
This technique may not work as well in speeding Los Angeles freeway driving or when gale force winds threaten to blow your car into another lane of traffic but in many other situations turning your focus to something positive and being in the “present” can create a better commuter experience. I challenge you to find, and then celebrate, the best sights that you might encounter upon your commute. Find beauty or find the most interesting things that you experience along your way. Try it. It works!
Drive carefully and DO NOT TEXT MESSAGE while driving, ‘cause that is dumb!
For more stress management suggestions which can assist you as a commuter, go the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com