The Road to Joy

I drove two roads over Memorial Day weekend.

The one road we locals never want to drive during this first unofficial weekend of summer is the bypass that heads north past our micropolitan to deposit vacationers throughout north-central Minnesota. At a particularly bad stretch of multiple intersections a crush of gear-laden cars, trucks towing boats and RV’s carrying eager campers mesh together in long lines of backed-up stoplights.  Even more overwhelming to me is the anxious rush when the light turns green.

We live where everyone else rushes to. While I love to welcome the return of our tourist community and the exuberant life it represents, I find joy on the other road I drove this weekend to get to a friend’s new house. That road flows in the opposite direction of the traffic. The bypass replaced this road through town. Its only Memorial Day draw now are neighborhood garage sales, flag-lined front yards and the flowering crabapple trees.

A flowering crabapple tree

After passing a row of the these pink and purple bursts, I made an uncharacteristic traffic move. I pulled into the outer road, opened my sun roof and captured a picture under nearly every flowering crab I passed.

The view through my sun roof of a flowering crab-apple tree

My neighbor Paula introduced this tree’s Brainerd history to me. She said that in the mid to late 1960’s citizens in Brained started a campaign to beautify the city with flowering crabapple trees. When she was in junior high her mom said, “They’re going to do this in the city, and we need to plant one.” Their tree still stands at her parent’s home in northeast Brainerd, where we can find them on almost every block. I’m not sure anyone has counted how many of these original trees are still standing or if the tradition to plant them continued into other generations but dozens of them came to my attention this Memorial Day weekend along this road.

I often catch myself in the stress of the moment agonizing about teaching my children to get along with each other, working through a problem, or identifying a disagreement with another person. Despite all these and other stresses that rush through me at this time of year, the simplicity of this attentive drive opened my summer to joy.

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