For the Birds Radio Program: The Zen Driver

Original Air Date: Sept. 6, 2017

“Drive at the slowest speed that is safe, courteous, and convenient.” is Number 60 on Laura’s Ways to Help Birds. This is easy to do when you’re the Zen Driver.

Duration: 5′06″


A few years ago when Russ and I were driving to Florida, I started noticing how I get into a calm, easygoing mode while driving or riding. That’s an important thing if I’m to honor my own #60 in my Ways to Help Birds: Drive at the slowest speed that is safe, courteous, and convenient. During the time I was riding in the passenger seat, I put these thoughts together into a laid-back sort of poem titled The Zen Driver.

The Zen Driver

It’s a beautiful day for a drive
When you think about it.

Oh, big truck. Why do you go so slow?
Ten miles under the speed limit the last twenty miles.
I guess I should pass you.

Driving slow like this
Saves gas.
That’s a good thing.

The truck driver is not in a hurry.
He’s probably a conservationist like me.

There. I’m in the left lane.
Oh dear—now you’re speeding up.
Now you’ve cut me off.
You must be having a bad day.

Another accident.
Slowing down again.
I hope no one’s hurt.

The Google Map Lady
Can be so helpful.
And she sounds concerned about us.
Maybe it’s genuine.

So much traffic at rush hour
Makes me feel harried.
Oh, look! A Pileated Woodpecker!

Six lanes!
I wonder which one I should be in.
It probably doesn’t matter.

So much noise!
Does pushing the horn relieve stress for you?
It doesn’t for me.

“Bump ahead.”
A good reminder
About life.

Borden Milk Company truck,
Elsie the Cow sticking out of a daisy.
That’s something you don’t see every day
Any more.

So many people
In such a hurry.
They must be doing important things.

Truck brakes hard.
Uh oh. Must be danger ahead.
Nope. He turns off at exit.
His signal must be broken.

More construction.
Even more construction.
The road will be perfect
Some day.

Seven hundred miles to go.
Will we make it today?
No big deal.

I wonder how many birds
We’ve passed so far.

So many drivers.
Some too fast.
Some too slow.
That Conway double-truck weaving wildly.
Pickup truck passing on the right shoulder.
Yelling won’t help
Even a little.

The roads through the mountains
Go every which way,
Like a plate of spaghetti.

Most people
Are good drivers.
That’s why we’re still here.

When you think about
Building roads through mountains,
It’s pretty cool.

So many signs
In every direction.
Should I read them all?
“Don’t Drive Distracted.”
“Be Safe.”
“TOOT Cares.”
Oh, wait.
That’s TDOT.
What could that stand for?
Oh—Tennessee Department of Transportation,
Puzzling that out distracts me.
I wonder if they appreciate
The irony.

1,056 miles so far.
598 to go.
We’re making progress.

Mountains are prettier
When you’re the passenger.

The steering wheel
Sticking out of the dashboard
Is attached to hidden stuff
Attached to other hidden stuff
Attached to other hidden stuff
That makes the wheels turn.
I like how complicated it is.
And all I have to do is drive.

We just went through
A teenie tiny piece of Georgia,
And we’re back in Tennessee.
Are we making progress?

Sometimes it feels frustrating
That we can’t stop
To look at birds.

So much traffic
Going through Chattanooga.
But no choo choo.

What a big, beautiful country.
It must have been thrilling
To explore it on foot.

Georgia is so beautiful.
I feel sad,
Thinking about Sherman.
Grant was a better human being.
Thinking about Grant
Makes me happy
Until I remember his painful death.

I wish the Google Map Lady could speak Jane Austen.
If I missed an exit, she could say, “I am most seriously displeased.”
If there were an accident and she needed to reroute me, she could say,
“I am all astonishment.”
And she’d remind me to wear my bonnet.
That would be fun.

Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures
Hundreds circling over the highway.
I wonder if they know something.

I trust we’ll be happy
To get where we’re going.
But the getting there is fun, too.

Driver whizzing past
Pointing his middle finger at the sky.
Yes! That is a pretty cloud.
I give him a thumbs up.

It’s a beautiful day for a drive
When you think about it.

Posted on Laura’s Blog