The Oasis in the City

DCLast week, we explored our need to intentionally carve out “island time” in our daily routines. Ironically, I spent a couple of days this past week working at my company’s office in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C. Are there two more drastically opposite settings than Maui and our nation’s capital?

Even though I have a passion for exploring mountain ranges and hidden gems, I am fascinated by cities – the architecture, the flurry of activity, the mom & pop cafes, the endless aromas of coffee and baked goods. Something is constantly happening on practically every street corner.

Cities develop a life of their own because of the people who indwell them. Some live in D.C. because they are interning at a government office. Others are drawn by the steady work. Many have transitioned to the area because they believe in a particular cause and are working to create change in government. And quite a few seek the power and prestige of higher positions. No matter the reason, the pace of life in D.C. is frantic, to say the least.

Simplicity seems like a concept foreign to the impatient drivers, whose honking horns continuously reverberate off the sides of the surrounding office buildings. You have to work a bit harder to uncover simplicity, but it’s there. I sat outside at a small cafe with my coworkers, sipping coffee and eating breakfast with the glow of the morning sun peaking through the surrounding office buildings. We had a loose schedule to keep that morning. So, along with breakfast, we took in the sights of people rushing to work, their ears stuffed with white ear buds as they tried to escape the outside world for the one on their iPods and cell phones.

The day before, our group took a leisurely walk over to the National Mall, stopping by both the World War II and Lincoln Memorials. The fountain at the World War II Memorial offers a pleasant respite from the rush hour traffic a mere fifty yards away; the impressive plaza provides a small glimpse into the sacrifices made 70 years ago.

And the towering Lincoln Memorial never ceases to impress. Even though I have been to the site a handful of times, I had never taken the 360 degree walk around the structure until Monday. As the sun faded to the west, its rays beamed through the columns along the backside of the monument, reflecting off the white marble stone and peering through the massive, white columns.

A certain peace, resolve, and strength exists within the chamber and around the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. Our group sat near the top of the steps and gazed out over the reflecting pool. We were no longer in the bustling city, but in a moment of awe and reflection over the history of our nation.

Sometimes, our hearts are simply crying out for the oasis in the midst of the city, those spots where we can be still, reflect, and recharage. Our part is to intentionally slow down long enough to find them.

Island Time – Lessons From the Road to Hana

Eleven years ago, Karen and I honeymooned in the tropical paradises of Maui and Kauai. On both of these magnificent islands, folks continually mentioned living on “island time.” Both islands seemed like foreign lands, bearing little resemblance to our fast-paced lives on the mainland.

As so many tourists do when they visit Maui, we ventured out onto the legendary, winding trek around the east side of the island called The Road to Hana. Since we were just 22-years-young at the time, I’m pretty sure we missed the point of the trip.

Road to HanaWe expected unique destinations and interesting local spots. In fact, very little exists in terms of modern conveniences along this sparsely populated portion of the island. Hana itself is nothing more than a quaint village in the middle of nowhere. I darted right past the Hana town limits before blinking and realizing we had missed it.

The truth is that The Road to Hana is not about arriving at a grand destination filled with entertainment galore. Rather it is a journey into a simpler life surrounded by the awe of Creation.

The road itself is extremely narrow and bumpy in spots, winding in the midst of lush, tropical vegetation. We discovered a beautiful black sand beach nestled in between rocky cliffs. We drove along the sides of the mountains, which provided stunning ocean views.

At one point, a local parked smack-dab in the middle of the road, exited his car, and made small talk with his neighbors. The road was so narrow, none of us could get around. A parade of vehicles came to a complete a standstill until he finally ended the conversation.

Granted, I considered this a bit extremely rude, but I missed the greater lesson. Here was a man who wasn’t in a rush to accomplish the next task. He thought nothing about stopping to engage with his friends. It is likely something he does on a daily basis. (He probably finds extreme satisfaction in annoying the tourists.)

After returning to civilization, I recall discussing with Karen the sheer boredom of the drive. Looking back, I now desire to make the trek again and to see it through a different set of lenses that have aged by eleven years.

The reality is that the Road to Hana offers a pace of life that we rarely experience, where there are few schedules to fill and appointments to rush to.

Quite honestly, I have grown weary of constantly watching the clock and scheduling all aspects of my day. That is why many of my nights and weekends are devoted to island time. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you live at the beach.)

There will always be another commitment, additional obligations, and mountains of work to accomplish. Yet, if we can’t slow down long enough to converse with our friends and relish the beauty of Creation, then we have missed the lessons of The Road to Hana.

What’s the status of your life? Is your schedule maxed out, or do you allow for some island time?

Photo Courtesy: Randy Robertson

By the way, if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of my e-book Blaze Your Own Trail, you still time to pick one up. There is no obligation for you to pay anything unless you want to! So head on over and grab your copy now.