By David Izraelevitz
Editor’s Note: As the community gears up for a roundabout at 4th Street and Central Avenue, this column written by Izraelevitz in 1999 is a reminder of the local climate before construction of the roundabout at Diamond Drive and San Ildefonso Road.
As a resident of North Mesa, the new roundabout is our connection to the rest of the world. Maybe for this reason it has become much more than a traffic landmark for me; rather, as you’ll see if you bear with me for a few paragraphs, it’s become an important philosophical reference point.
I have to admit, however, that before this recent enlightenment, I found curious the earnest letters to this newspaper about the relative merits of our adult merry-go-round. We moved to Los Alamos after many years in New England, where roundabouts, pronounced “rotary” in Boston, are a common answer to the Pilgrim’s lack of urban planning.
However, even though roundabouts were a daily commuting experience all those years, it was not until we moved to North Mesa and our little circle was built that I began to appreciate its hidden worth, and only because I was half-asleep at the wheel one early Monday morning. The story begins with my fourth grader, an aspiring cellist at Barranca Mesa Elementary.
A few weeks ago, it was my turn to take him to before-school practice. I entered the roundabout from San Ildefonso but before I knew it, I had driven past the Barranca Mesa exit and was ready to take Jacob to the Lab or Furr’s or who knows where. My nap lasted only a second and I realized my mistake before leaving the roundabout, so I circled all the way around, carefully avoiding the gaze of impatient drivers waiting for this fool to finish his little tour. You can be sure that I didn’t make the same mistake twice and so, after just taking up a few seconds, Jacob and I resumed our trip to orchestra practice.
During that very moment, as we began chugging up the Barranca Mesa hill, is when I realized the lesson our little roundabout had in its bosom, ready for all of us to appreciate. How many times in our lives can we recover so easily from a lapse in judgment? It is true that there is a usually a way to redress our mistakes, but rarely without at least some consequence that makes us pay for our misstep.
How precious are those opportunities in life like the roundabout, where we can blunder with the comfort that though we took a wrong turn, we just have to circle around once more. Maybe this can teach us to approach more carefully those difficult intersections where hard decisions need to be made, those points in our lives where there might be no turning back, no second chances.
But how to realize when we are on the roundabouts of life, and not approaching the White Rock Y? Sometimes, it sure seems like we are on a roundabout, doesn’t it, with the familiar cycling of the days and weeks; work on Monday, piano on Wednesdays, Smith’s on Thursdays, French horn on Fridays, oops, it’s Monday again.
Yet, often we are actually on a slowly meandering spiral, where each time around things are a little different; we just might see this slightly altered perspective if we would pay more attention to the trip. But the changes around this not-so-roundabout are subtle, difficult to appreciate in the commotion of traffic and attempts to stay on the road. They are differences that if we are not careful to sense, allow us to feel stuck in a rut, essentially motionless, going in circles.
The reality however, is that it is changing all around us in delicate ways; our children growing, our careers evolving up or down, even ourselves both developing and mellowing.
All this from our little roundabout. And so I’ve decided that sometimes going around in circles is good for the soul. So please don’t give me that dirty look the next time I take a quick journey around our precious circuit while you are trying to get to work. You should realize that I am contemplating the lessons our little traffic controller has given us.
As a matter of fact, why don’t you give it a whirl yourself? You know, it will just take up a few seconds.