The Art of the Detour

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I hung a wreath made of autumn leaves on our front door. Fall had announced it’s arrival by splashing the trees that surround our home with brilliant orange and yellow, and vibrant reds and rich brown hues. I was just beginning to enjoy the entrance of the new season when my throat began to have that old familiar itch. Ugh.

I immediately pulled out my arsenal of preventives and began a regimen of salt water gargles, zinc lozenges, and saline spray. The symptoms grew worse by the hour. My throat felt like it had been groomed with a metal rake, and my sinuses felt like they had been replaced with rising yeast dough. Reluctantly, I went to the cupboard and pulled out the nasal rinse bottle. I once wondered why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily bring themselves to near drowning by way of a nasal enema. Yet, desperate times bring desperate measures. As much as I hate this procedure, I have found that it often wards off a head cold and can also reduce sore throat pain. For me, it’s like bringing out the big gun. However, this time I lost the battle.  Along with my balloon head and raw throat, I felt like a rusting tin man who needs oil in every joint. I retreated to the couch and crawled under a soft, cuddly throw.

“I don’t have time to be sick!” I complained.

My husband has heard this at least a thousand times in the course of our marriage. One great thing about our relationship is that we usually know how to make each other feel better. He knows a great foot rub can tame the growling beast, so he served me hot tea and worked on my feet. The next morning he built me a warm, cozy fire in the wood stove before he left for work. Sweet guy. I hauled my blanket and pillow from the bedroom and sat in the recliner, with a box of Kleenex on my lap, and watched a gentle rain through the sunroom window. My energy was zapped. The week’s agenda came to a grinding halt.

But I found that there is something good that can come from sitting in a stationary position, and not wanting to move anything but your eyeballs. You start to notice things that you have missed. My gaze followed the length of the sleepy summer flowerbed. It made me a little sad that it was beginning to wither back into the ground. Then I saw them. Just beyond the glass umbrella table, grew three or four giant, deep purple and soft white, dahlia’s that gracefully balanced atop their tall, slender stems. Image                                                          It was an unexpected second bloom. I had walked by the back window all week without noticing this perfect work of art. If I hadn’t been curled up with my pillow in forced rest, and in full detour of the day’s schedule, I may have missed this completely. I couldn’t help but smile.

My friend, Sharon, has mastered the art of the detour. We often get together when my husband is away on business, or when he has retreated into the Trinity mountains to go hunting. I have learned the most from Sharon while on day trips to various places that we have read about, and then made plans to explore.

It has been my nature to take the shortest point from  “A” to “B”. My motto is: Get there. But when its Sharon’s turn to drive, she prefers to find little side roads that in a round about way will eventually lead us to our destination.

It was fall and we made plans to take our first long day trip into Northern California wine country. I had grown up in that area and absolutely loved being there during the harvest season. So I was excited to go back for a visit when grape clusters still hang on the vines and are surrounded by leaves that are tipped with a hint of fall color.

We left just after sunrise and Sharon was in the driver seat. She mentioned that she wanted to take a nice little drive on a back road that would eventually drop us into the Napa Valley. In fact, she thought it might even be a short cut. I had never heard of this particular route, but if it was short cut, I was all for it. Soon we were on a road that wound its way up through a wooded mountain range. Up and down, and around and around we went. I have to admit that I was a bit antsy to, well, get there, so after what seemed like days, I asked, “Are you sure you know where you are going?”

I was use to zipping down a four lane highway, then taking a short jaunt on a two lane highway – and “Ta-da!” I was back in the valley where I had grown up. We had been on that road so long I could swear we were headed to Canada. I began to wonder if we would be viewing the vineyards under the midnight moon.

“Yeah.” Sharon calmly answered. That was it. No explanation.

So stated that I had never heard of the route we were on – and I use to live in that valley. At least that was where I hoped we were headed.

She chuckled. Then she commented on how lovely the trees were along the roadside. I looked out the window and thought, we are so lost.

One thing I really like about my friend Sharon is that she can maintain a certain state of serenity, even when I am getting a little on the wound up side. It can have a calming effect on me…most of the time.

Another great thing about my friend is that she totally cracks up when I make sarcastic remarks like, “Excuse me sir, can you tell us where the Napa Valley is because we have no idea where we are. However, we are enjoying the lovely trees along the way.”

Laughter makes the heart merry – and sometimes calms a wound up friend.

The road eventually led us on a curving ride into the golden foothills and then dropped us into wine country – just as Sharon had said it would. I ate my words.

                                                  Image        Along the way, we passed by beautiful country vineyards that I had never traveled far enough north to see. Some of the vineyards were small and quaint and inviting. Others spread majestically over several hillsides. We rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh air. I relaxed into my seat and soaked in the perfect scenery. It was indeed a lovely drive!

    Sharon found a small park off the beaten path where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, then we continued to drive along the back roads and found several smaller wineries with beautiful grounds where we could stroll about and snap pictures. And after a long day of exploring, wine tasting, and trying new foods, we got into the car and headed home. This time, we took the four lane highway. It was dark and late, and my eyelids were heavy. I arrived home under the midnight moon.

That day I discovered a richness that can be found in taking the road less traveled. It slows your pace, offering you a break from a high-speed world. Your breathing slows and your muscles relax. And the road less traveled often leads to new discoveries that you would have otherwise missed. Since that day, I have taken many more detours, and have enjoyed all that the backroads have to offer.

Sometimes I forget that the art of the detour isn’t limited to road trips. It can happen right here at home. Like stopping for just a moment to look out at the flower garden, where I may find something unexpected and beautiful. I have also come to realize that a detour may present itself in a completely different way.

Sometimes my plans are abruptly interrupted. Often times that can mean those plans go right out the window. I do not like it when that happens. In fact, I can down right resent it. When I have made a specific plan, I like to stick to it until I have completed it. There have been times when an interruption has changed the course of my life, and at the time I couldn’t see the good in it.

Yet I have found that those interruptions can often lead to a detour that brings hidden blessings that I would have otherwise missed. I have made different decisions that have yielded better outcomes. I have gained new perspectives on life that I may not have seen without the detour. I have found that some interruptions require selfless acts of kindness, which sometimes entails a major attitude adjustment on my part. Yet there is a goodness that comes from that, a goodness that reaches to the depths of the soul.

And at the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I sleep well.

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Bacteriology 101

“Don’t touch your face!” I constantly warned my children during cold and flu season. Children’s fingers tend to gravitate toward the nearest nostrils.  “Bad germs that can make you sick like to live in your nose,” I would instruct, “and sometimes in your eyes.” Then I would direct them, “Scrub your hands and don’t stop until you’ve sung the entire ABC song!” But somehow those little buggers made it to the gateway needed to set up camp in a nostril, or two, and then wreak havoc in our household. Out came the thermometer, Tylenol, cough syrup and case of Kleenex, along with a new set of rules. “Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough!”

Today I sit with a box of Kleenex at my side, blowing and sniffling, while sucking on a Zicam tablet. While I don’t allow any of my fingers to nostril hang, apparently, at some point I broke my own proverbial rule and “touched my face,” or I was privy to someone’s uncovered cough, or sneeze. I’d like to believe that it was the latter of the two. Either way, an undetected viral organism made it’s stealth transfer into my body and has made itself at home.

When I was in college, one of my required science classes was Bacteriology. I learned more about bacteria than I ever wanted to know. The more I viewed the squirmy, crawly organisms under the microscope, the more I was aware of their encroachment of my surrounding environment. They became my invisible enemy. I envisioned them on my countertops, doorknobs and sink faucets. When I got into my car, they were on the door handles, steering wheel and stick-shift. I battled against them as I scrubbed and disinfected all surfaces of possible contamination. But when my husband took me out to dinner, they were at the restaurant too. I grabbed my little cleaning cloth from my purse and wiped down my fork, knife and spoon prior to use. The first time I did this, my husband took a quick glance around the room, then leaned toward me and whispered, “What are you doing?” I blinked. Didn’t he know the dangers that may lay on the surface of the utensils that he was about to put into his mouth? It was apparent by the look on his face that he did not, so I informed him. “You have no idea who has touched those, and whether or not they washed their hands first – they could be infected with E.Coli for all you know!” He rolled his eyes and retorted, “You are beginning to sound paranoid!” To which I replied, “I’d rather be paranoid than dead!” I’m afraid that it didn’t end there.

One day while working on my home decontamination plan, my husband said, “You know, you can’t avoid germs, they are in the air you breathe.” I promptly went to the closet and grabbed the Lysol spray and fumigated every room in the house with it. When I realized we were beginning to run out of oxygen, I relented to opening up all the windows.

I’m not sure when my germ paranoia began to fade. Perhaps it was my mother reminding me that I had made it through the first two decades of my life in good health. She informed me that in my first few years of toddling around on this planet, that I had eaten with dirty hands on more than one occasion and once had bitten a live snail in half. That totally grossed me out and I told her that she could have kept that information to herself. Perhaps it was reading health related articles about the overuse of antibacterials, that we were killing the good bacteria that protects us while trying to kill the bad stuff. Or coming to realization that mom was right (as well as my all-natural friend who refuses to use hand sanitizers), that we are made with an immune system that works, short of a serious condition, and some exposure to germs may actually be good for us. Eventually, my germ phobia dissolved. But I do have to admit that I still occasionally wipe down my steering wheel and stick shift in my car with an antibacterial wipe.

Yesterday my husband came home and promptly placed his work bag on top of the freshly cleaned kitchen counter. I asked him if he would put it on the floor instead since it wasn’t clean enough to be on the countertop. He said that it wasn’t dirty, that it had only been on his truck floor – and that was clean. I wanted to give him the entire run down on how bacteria is invisible to the naked eye, and how life threatening bacteria can be transferred to kitchen countertops and into the food we eat. But instead I replied, “Would you lick your truck floor?” Point made.

Old habits die hard.

Trust

I had an injury a few weeks ago that fast became a pain in the neck – literally. I was referred by my physician for physical therapy for pain reduction and correction of vertebrae position. I wondered silently if they could do wrinkle reduction and upward positioning of other body parts while I was there…But I knew that solution lay in an entirely different sort of practice, and after envisioning myself in tight-eyed surprise, with lips of an Orangutan in a permanent cock-eyed smile, and – well, I’ll stop with that, I decided to deal with old-er age and gravity as it comes.

So today my physical therapist decided to use cervical traction as a part of my treatment. He said most people either love it, or hate it. My mind flashed a scene of my body being pulled in two different directions and me screaming out for mercy. But I agreed to give it a try.

Once the therapist placed my head into the contraption that would soon be elongating my physique, he cranked two small, curved bars inward to the sides of my neck to firmly secure my condyle(s), which according to the Greeks, are a rounded projection at the end of a bone that anchors muscle ligaments and articulates with adjacent bones. I wondered if this was comparable to the Terminator taking a firm grip around my neck. Next, he started squeezing a hand pump that moved the unit which embraced my head upward. With each squeeze, my head was pulled northward as my body stayed at the equator. While laying there I began to think about what I was allowing this person to do. I had entrusted him with a very essential part of my body. Although I had never seen his credentials, or checked the America’s most wanted list for his name, I trusted that he was a competent, licensed physical therapist. A slight perspiration began in my underarms, and I wished that I had used deodorant. As my head continued to inch upward, I pictured it like a cork, stuck into the end of a bottle of champagne and at any moment it was going to pop right off my shoulders, bounce off the ceiling and roll out the door. But before that happened, the therapist asked how I was doing. I replied, “I think that’s good.” Fifteen minutes later, I felt like a giraffe and I was free to roam about the room. All in all, I have to say it was worth it. I had a better view of the world below me and I was in less pain.

On my way home, I thought more about the trust I had placed in my physical therapist. He said that he could help me, and without question, I believed him and placed myself in his care. I had put my faith in him. Then I thought about my life, my future, and those I love. I say that I believe in the God of our universe – the one that actually created it, yet so often I hesitate to completely place all that I am and all those I love into his care. When my physical therapist brought out the traction unit, I didn’t say, “Uh, I’ll take it from here”, I let him do what he knew best, even when I was feeling some uncertainty during the process. I didn’t know what the outcome would be, what the future would hold for me, but I had faith that he knew what he was doing.  As I write this, I can see a golden sunset on the horizon that lay in contrast to the dark grey clouds that dominated the day. In my heart I am resolute to give the God that I trust all aspects of my life. I give him the dark clouds that can hover over my day, I give him the good, the bad, and the ugly. I entrust those who are a part of my life to his care, and I look to the horizon of my life with the hope and assurance that he’ll be there with me.

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