Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Taking a Different Road

Thank you to P&G’s Have You Tried This Yet? program and Kroger for sponsoring my writing about trying new things and breaking out of my everyday routine. Click here to find great savings on high-performing P&G products at a Kroger store near you. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

I had to think a bit about this one; what could I write about, that I haven't already written about, that doesn't involve mentioning specific products (because much of my "trying new things" is a product), that's also not boring, or that won't turn into a six-part story (like the time I broke from routine to go to Canada.) And then I remembered a time I broke from routine just for an evening. It is a story I've been meaning to tell you for awhile.

I've mentioned many times on this blog that, when I first moved into the apartment that would be my last home in New Jersey, ten months before I moved to Oregon, I was very lonely. I had never lived alone before and all of my friends were not as far away as they are now, but still too far for me to visit them every day like I'd been accustomed to doing. The first month was the most difficult. I tried to make myself enjoy it. I tried to make the most of my new geographic location by exploring on weekends or on my days off.

On the first day of fall, I walked to the top of Fort Nonsense and took a picture of the view. It was at that moment I resolved that, every Monday after work, I would walk up to Fort Nonsense and take a picture to document the changing leaves.

Shortly after this scheme was devised, it occurred to me that as the weeks wore on, the days would get too short for me to be able to take this picture every Monday; I would get home from work too late and miss the sunset.

One Monday in early October, however, I anticipated the gift of an extra hour. My work schedule was 8:30-5, but several of the staff had to come in at 7:30 to set up for an early morning program. Since I had to come in an hour earlier that day, I planned to leave an hour earlier, too. I even wrote it on my timesheet for all to see.

But at 3:50, someone who certainly would have seen that timesheet and probably knew of my plans marched into my office to discuss the morning's event. This impromptu meeting ended at 4:20. I had lost twenty valuable minutes of daylight. It would give me enough time to get to the entrance of Fort Nonsense, but not to the top before the light faded too much for a picture.

Rebellion surged within me. At 4:21, I marched up to the office where my timesheet was displayed, crossed out "7:30-4," and wrote, "7:30-5." I would work the extra hour today - I was already a third of the way there! - and leave early tomorrow. And tomorrow, nothing would stop me from leaving at 4.

Five o' clock came, but my rebellious mood had not left. A new idea had formed; there was someplace other than Fort Nonsense I wanted to go. I had never been to - and had wanted to see for years - The Great Swamp. It was close to half an hour away, but I could at least see it before dark, even if I couldn't hike the trails. And then I would know how to get there on Tuesday, when I'd leave work at 4!

The Great Swamp is one of the many places in New Jersey that most people don't picture when they think of the Garden State. Not only is it a natural wonder, but it looks strikingly different from other natural sites in the state. Even the residential and commercial areas around the Great Swamp looked different. It was very flat, and the trees were different. The entire landscape was unlike that of Fort Nonsense, for example, less than ten miles away.

Even though I didn't have time for a hike, I wanted to get out and at least see the beginning of the trail. But I was wearing a dress and heels. Since my job sometimes involved impromptu gardening, I kept a spare outfit in my car. I changed in the backseat of my car, awkwardly (believing to be doing so rebelliiously!) before realizing that there were bathrooms at the refuge.

The next day, I rebelliously left at four. No one stopped me. I made it to the refuge with plenty of time to explore.

I saw native plants that were unfamiliar to me, that I later had to look up. I saw native plants that I knew existed, but only saw before growing alone, as specimens. I saw native plants that grew in small numbers in the wild, or so I thought, but here at the Great Swamp all of these things dominated the landscape. Such as sassafras, like this one:

I didn't even have to leave the parking lot to get that picture. That was taken right next to my car. It is one of my favorite pictures ever, mostly because it reminds me of that day.

Breaking routine and going not home, not to Fort Nonsense, but to another town to see the Great Swamp reminded me that I wasn't a slave to routine. I was in control of my life.

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