Each morning, my teaching partner Nathan and I drive to Florida, Massachusetts to begin teaching at Gabriell Abbott Memorial School. It is a forty-minute drive, through twists and turns, down many hills and then up a mountain. Sometimes we get stuck behind a school bus or mailperson. Other times, there is a car behind us, frustrated with our slow moving van. Some mornings, my mind is racing, going through the lessons planned for the day and thinking of supplies we need to organize. Most of the time, I do not think about much except turning on and off the turning signal. As much as I’ve tried to change this, I am not what you would call a morning person. It takes me a couple of hours and a lot of coffee to be ready to fully use my brain. So, most mornings, I am in the process of waking up, following the curves of the road and going through the motions.
When I was sixteen and first got my license, I recall a friend’s mom telling me to always be aware of the fact that I am driving. If you are present, she said, you are far less likely to get into an accident. I remember thinking that this advice was silly – whenever you drive, aren’t you always aware? As I grew older and drove more and more, I realized that I could sometimes drive ten minutes to my job and not remember a song I listened to. Once the novelty of something like driving wears off, it is so easy to take it for granted. In an effort to change this habit, I tried my best to be mindful on Thursday while driving to school. It is worth mentioning that the drive is beautiful. I know I noticed this the first week of the commute, but I only gave it fleeting thoughts in the past few weeks. On our drive, after a sharp curve, Mount Greylock is perfectly framed straight ahead. Herman Melville had this view too. After a bit, we drive past Susan B. Anthony’s birthplace. Next, we head up Florida Mountain, where the speed limit drops to 15 miles per hour on a hairpin turn. There is a view of many towns with Mount Greylock in the background. Icicles have frozen in a waterfall on the bluffs next to the road. Eventually, we drive into Florida and arrive at our school.
There is a major difference many days between the drive in the morning and the drive back in the afternoon. On the ride home, Nathan and I are usually energized from the day at school. We have a helpful and considerate discussion about how each lesson went throughout the day. Sometimes after this, we ride in a nice silence, listening to music. Other days, the forty minutes fly by, as we talk about school, funny things our students say, things like that. Sometimes we talk about our plans after our program is over, how things are going in our lives, issues in our community. It is so rare in our communal living situation to get a chance to talk one on one with friends. I think I sometimes have the tendency to take valuable conversations like this for granted just like I do the scenic drive, especially when it is something that you can count on happening each week. It is worth it sometimes to be mindful throughout your daily life.