That’s what happened last week when I was out with Spencer and Eric, my sister’s boyfriend, for a jaunt around Southern Maryland. Much to my chagrin, it turns out I live in a pretty rural area — exemplified by the fact that, once you get out of “town,” where I live, there’s a farm on every corner. And, it stands to reason, farmers. And the Amish, who ride on the shoulders of roads in buggies. And local markets. You get the picture. Considering we’re only 45 minutes from downtown Washington, D.C., where the majority of locals work, you forget that there’s actually life away from the Capitol. And that it’s all right here.
Cruising down to pick up Eric for dinner and ice cream, a wonderful way to spend any Friday evening, we passed all sorts of historic landmarks. It’s really funny to be reminded that I live in an area steeped in American history — especially of the Civil War variety. After the field trips to local places like Dr. Samuel Mudd’s historic home ran out, I didn’t take note of things like the trail John Wilkes Booth took to escape authorities after assassinating Abraham Lincoln any longer. But touring around with Spencer, a New York transplant, I’m reminded of all the cool things that are literally in my back yard. Things I never pause long enough to notice.
Like Ye Coole Springs.
Aside from having a name that makes me giggle, Ye Coole Springs are natural springs in Charlotte Hall, Md., and the site of the first hospital in Maryland — constructed in the early 1700s. Yes, friends, 1700 – before our country was a country. Before anyone could even breathe the name “America.” Once believed to have “healing powers,” the springs were a popular destination for colonists plagued with illness and disease, especially considering they’d left their healthcare facilities in England. Ye Coole Springs provided clean, natural drinking water for locals and today, in 2010, still bubble up with fluid.
When we pulled up to the springs on Friday, a woman was walking by with several large dogs. Spencer dutifully patted a friendly one on the snout as we approached, parking near the side of the road. Once they’d passed by, we were completely alone and in near-perfect silence. And despite being within miles of Eric’s home, my friend hadn’t visited the springs in years. It’s that sort of mentality — passing things so often that we fail to notice them — that I want to change in my own life. I want to stop whizzing past everything in a fast-moving vehicle and actually see what I’m seeing. You know what I mean?
So we saw the springs. And there isn’t that much there, to be honest, and it wouldn’t be worthwhile to make a trip to Ye Coole Springs unless you happen to be passing en route to other exciting Maryland attractions, like the fairgrounds. Or St. Mary’s City. Or Bert’s, a ’50s-style diner where waitresses wear poodle skirts and Elvis blares as milkshakes teeming with homemade whipped cream are dropped on your table. (Mmm, milkshakes. Definitely get a milkshake.)
But Ye Coole Springs? Well, it’s right here — a random stop on an evening brimming over with random adventures. When we saw the sign indicating how close we were, we decided to stop. It didn’t take much for the three of us to trot up to the worn white gate and enter the grounds, which were sodden with water. Even on the driest of summer days, Ye Coole Springs continue to generate plenty of spring water — enough to suck my flip-flops right into the ground.
“This is crazy!” I called out, snapping pictures in the fading light.
My excitement over the springs was somehow disproportionate to what I was actually seeing. I mean, sure, the springs were cool — they’re springs. Water. Coming up from the ground. But how could I explain how eager I was to see them, or how awesome it was to imagine sitting on one of the stone benches nearby with a book?
Well, I think it harkens back to one of my new/old life philosophies: slowing down to smell the roses. Or see trees in bloom. Or pull over to look at water coming out of old wells. Whatever it is, I want to see it — and I want to do it. I want to breathe in clean air long enough to enjoy it.
And if that means taking a detour, well — that’s what life is all about.