It was during an afternoon commute north on 95. Late afternoon. It's the only time of day when that stretch of Coeur d'Alene highway experiences a genuine rush hour. I switched from the slow lane into the fast lane to get around a logging truck and discovered a second logging truck a few car lengths ahead of me in this new lane of traffic. After those few cars all moved into the turn lane, I had nothing in front of me, except freshly cut timber.
Lights ahead turned red and we rolled to a stop. There, with one fully loaded logging truck ahead of me and another to my right, I had a revelation.
However, before I unpack this sudden brush with wood inspired wisdom, I need to talk about Trevor.
Who is Trevor?
When my family moved into a new house during the summer before I entered the third grade, Trevor quickly became my best friend. There was one house in between his and mine, but the casa Casey was situated on a two acre corner lot. Due to the size of the property, our back yard almost connected with Trevor's back yard, so he was practically a neighbor. We were close enough that when dinner time approached, all my mom would have to do is stick her head out the back door and yell my name. I'd hear her and go running back home.
There are a few big reasons I enjoyed hanging out with Trevor. The first is that he owned a Nintendo - a luxury that my parents could never afford. I would also watch some shows at his place that my parents wouldn't allow, primarily Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The final reason I liked hanging out at Trevor's place became more apparent as we got older. His little sister was super cute and by the time we were in junior high, I had a massive crush on her.
What does getting stuck in traffic have to do with Trevor and my boyhood crush on his little sister?
Trevor had great parents. They wouldn't let us spend all of our time indoors playing video games and watching TV. They frequently sent us outside, rain or shine.
There was an empty lot between our back yards. It was the battlefield where we played out our summertime squirt gun wars. It was the arena where I played tag with Trevor and his sister. It was the setting where I became infatuated with her jet black hair, tanned skin, and bashful laugh.
At the far end of that empty lot was a row of pine trees. Their lowest branches were close enough to the ground that it was easy to scramble up into the boughs and climb higher and higher until the branches were too thin to support our weight. We spent many afternoons clinging to bark high above the ground. More often than not, by the time I heard my mother yell, "NICHOLAS!!!" my hands were sticky with sap and I had pine needles tangled in my hair.
But now I'm stuck in traffic. This is North Idaho and what we call rush hour pales in comparison to the I-5 Boeing traffic that I grew up with in Seattle. But I am not a patient man. Slow drivers tend to annoy me. Semi trucks in the fast lane tend to bother me. Being stuck at a red light when I'm in a hurry to get to my destination tends to frustrate me.
(I never claimed to be perfect.)
But that afternoon, despite the annoyance of slow traffic and being stuck at a red light behind a semi in the fast lane, I had an out-of-character reaction. With both of my windows down, with former trees stacked up in front of and beside me, I took a deep breath. I fully inhaled the odors of recently cut pine. And I just enjoyed the moment for what it was.
My natural inclination would have been to grumble. Instead, I found a bit of happiness in that piney sappy scent wafting through my car. For just a moment I allowed my life to pause. Instead of dwelling on whatever problems existed in my life, I breathed in every ounce of calm and peace that floated by along with that smell of lumberjack's labor. In the time it took for the rotation of lights by Fred Meyer to cycle through and give me a green light, that refreshing aroma reminded me of Trevor. And his sister. It reminded me of better days, years of blissful innocence. It reminded me of those countless times I squirrelled my way into the tree tops and the evenings I ran home for dinner smelling like a forest. The revelation hit. I could chose to be frustrated or choose to accept my circumstance.
That minute of pause was a return to joy.
Every now and then, we need to push that pause button. Our lives are hectic and demanding. Stressors abound. Demands unrelenting. Left to our own devices, it's easy to let these outside influences steer the course of our day to day routine. We need that pause to give ourselves a refreshed perspective. To recharge our internal batteries. To experience a momentary reprieve from our burdens.
That's the power of pause. To rest.
And rest isn't easy. It takes practice. As the son of a workaholic (who exhibits some of those same tendencies), I don't truly know how to rest. Intellectually speaking, I know it's important. Selah. In actual practice, however, I have a hard time fully and tangibly resting. But this past summer I made considerable efforts to do just that.
I've largely been absent from the blogging world since May. My writing pace slowed to a noticeable trickle. It's hard to write from the heart when your heart is not in the right place. So I needed a break. I needed to push pause. I devoted as much time as I could to enjoying the summer with my kids. I took them hiking, something that I myself haven't done since I moved away from Seattle in '99. I started going to concerts again, local shows. That's an element that has been absent from my life since I lived in Boise. I rekindled the joys I once found in live music and dirt paths through the woods. I loved every minute and along the way I discovered a few things. I found that one of the most peaceful places on Friday mornings in Coeur d'Alene is sitting on the edge of the amphitheater stage at Riverstone Park, with my feet dangling in the water, watching the ducks swim by close enough that you could kick them. (note: I don't condone kicking ducks). I discovered the light of fireworks reflected in my children's eyes. I discovered energy that I didn't know I had while walking around the fair grounds with my three kids for seven hours. I learned that truth always wins.
One other thing I discovered, or rather rediscovered, is who I am. Why I write. The kind of person I want to be. Why I embrace geekery. And where this path is taking me. Thanks to the power of pause, I'm driven. I know why God stuck my love for pop culture and theology in a blender. Those synapses in my cranium are bursting. I'm ready to be me again.
All because I got stuck between logging trucks at a red light during an afternoon commute and it reminded me of a kid I once knew named Trevor. And his younger sister.