The M11, or the scenic route ? those were my options leaving Ely yesterday to travel down to see my parents in Essex. It was raining, and although my Sat Nav gave me the quicker and more direct option, in the end I chose the scenic route. I could have described it as tedious, hard work changing gear at every corner, and not really scenic in the rain. It seemed to take forever getting through Chelmsford in the rush hour - and yet, after four very intense days the slower drive caused me to relax, unwind and gradually leave behind the heavy responsibility of peoples lives. It was only a few days ago, driving (or hurtling) down the M4 that I thanked God that there was no motorway linking north and south Buckinghamshire. Yes, there are dual carriageways to overtake that slow lorry or tractor, but all routes take you through proper places and, as one who enjoys places, it has meant a feeling of connection with the area for which I am responsible. Going north of Aylesbury Waddesden, Whitchurch and Wing have become my friends depending on my destination, and south Princes Risborough and Gt Missenden serve as gateways to Wycombe and Slough, and all remind me of community, and reality, of church and people. I think that is what keeps me grounded as I spend hours in the car. Yesterday it was Haverhill, Sible Heddingham, Braintree and Stock - reminding me very much of grandparents, and childhood. What a difference from the motorway, where I would have seen nothing but the car in front, the spray from lorries, and the occasional 'welcome break'.
So often my life is lived in the fast lane, going from thing to thing. To deliberately choose to take the slow road (literally) yesterday was a privilage. Yet, if we chose it from time to time, or appreciate it when we can, we will be surprised by what can happen in the space it creates.