The Big Downshift
I took a couple of days about a month ago to explore western North Dakota with my best friend. We were a couple of Thelma and Louise adventurers who set out on the drive across the state to go back in time to visit Medora, the former home of Roughrider and president Theodore Roosevelt and current home of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Here's your North Dakota history lesson: Medora was founded in April of 1883 by a 24-year old French nobleman, the Marquis De Mores, who named the town after his wife Medora, daughter of a wealthy New York City banker. With financial backing from his father-in-law, he founded the town of Medora east of the river, building a meat packing plant, a brick plant, a hotel, stores, and a large home (Chateau de Mores) overlooking his new town.
It was a fun trip, and, although I've lived in North Dakota all my life, I've only been to Medora maybe twice that I can remember. It's easy to forget about the beauty and diversity we have right in our own backyard.
Since eastern North Dakota, where I live, is relatively flat (OK, REALLY flat), I don't have much experience driving my five-speed CRV in hilly terrain. While driving through Theodore Roosevelt National Park and observing bison up close and personal, I found myself cruising along in fifth gear, only to find myself struggling to make it up the hills of the park. The harder I tried to get up the hills in fifth, the more my little car complained and strained. I forgot that the only way to climb the hills effectively is to shift down to fourth and even third gear to pick up speed and traction in the hills.
What a great metaphor for our lives. Only when we take time to shift into a lower gear can we get the traction we need to make it up the hills. It took a trip out west to remind me yet again to slow down and enjoy the view - both the new view in unfamiliar territory - but also the view I look at every day when I cruise through my life in fifth gear. Now each time I shift down - including last weekend when I found myself in standstill traffic during rush hour trying to get out of Minneapolis - I think about the hills of western North Dakota, and the message I got from the hills and the bison. Before my shift (pun intended), that traffic might have really gotten me upset. It's taken just that subtle shift to get a whole new perspective.
Shift into third and notice what you don't notice in fifth.