We’d been on a business road trip, driving across country to visit customers for the first time since lock-down. As my husband drove, I was in full working mode, dashing off quotes, fielding calls, shooting instructions to my assistant.
And then all of a sudden, I wasn’t.
The county where we were headed had one claim to fame: its impressive inverse ratio of population to square miles. The seat had fewer than 100 residents. Yet they had need of our product, so we’d made an appointment to stop by.
Sidelined from productivity, I was forced to look up and outside my window at the spectacular, southwestern scenery. Terra cotta-colored buttes pushing up from acres of high desert scrub land, uninhabited except for the occasional grazing cow or horse. Wispy, ash-blonde grasses undulated in the easterly breeze as rambunctious seed-puffs skittered gleefully across the two-lane highway. Perky cliques of Black-eyed Susans gossiped, and scrubby dark evergreens—pinyon pine and juniper—freckled the face of modest hills that grew more assertive as the elevation climbed.
After a few reflexive attempts to check my electronics, I rested my hands quietly in my lap and felt the stress melt away from my mind and muscles as they absorbed the soul-nourishing beauty and its silence but for the wind rushing by.
I smiled at my husband. He smiled back.
The trip's only drama was when a shiny red snake slithered across the road, making the tactical mistake of pausing midway to consider his options, which at that point became regrettably limited.
Nearing our destination, a couple of cell towers rose in the distance. I took a glance at my phone, only to find that our carrier had apparently not felt the region worthy of its infrastructure, leaving it to the competition. Off-grid confirmed, I slipped the impotent device back into my purse and breathed thanks for the gift of this moment.
When we arrived, we asked for our point of contact, who had apparently been called out of state on a family emergency. Would we like to wait for 20 minutes for someone else?
“Why not?” we said, embracing our temporary vacation, sipping hot coffee and taking in the tiny town’s quaint pride in their centennial celebration, boasting a logo contest and plans for a parade of decorated automobiles, tractors, and horses. We wandered the grounds and observed the humble goings-on: passing pick-up truck drivers stopping mid-street for genial conversation. A pair of outraged goldfinches chasing off a crow. A barking hound tethered just out of range of the little terrier his owner scooped up in her arms as she walked by.
Our substitute contact point turned out to be the mayor, who arrived shortly in his own pick-up truck, dressed in scuffed cowboy boots and a ball cap. The town had a legitimate problem that our products could help address, so we launched into a discussion of possible solutions, which he interrupted for a moment to take a call. His ringtone was literally the sound of crickets.
I was in no hurry to wrap up our respite and return to “civilization” with its raucous demands and constant stimulus. For all its benefits, my digital existence had crowded out the simple delights of the natural world around me, and I hadn’t felt its crushing weight until it was lifted in that brief reprieve.
I was purely present. And purely happy.