By ANNE KAISER
On a recent visit to Sun Prairie, Wis., my husband and I navigated the rolling countryside following directions from a relative. We squinted to glimpse tiny signs marking obscure county highways, counted the prescribed number of stop signs before a given turn, watched for the corn field that signaled the presence of the road leading to our lodging and finally sighed with relief as we pulled off the dark country roads and into the parking lot of our hotel.
Two days later, as we prepared to conclude our visit and work our way into Madison proper, we again paused to jot down directions. An aunt offered a series of visual cues to guide our route — watch for the cornfield, then turn right, go left under the bridge — until an uncle chimed in, advising us to listen to his street-name–based directions instead. Hoping to avoid fueling any conflict, we paused to hear his perspective on our prospective route, jotting down road names as rapidly as he provided them.
Later, as we walked in the Olbrich Botanical Gardens over peaceful footbridges and past rosebushes heavy with late blooms, I contemplated the humorous array of directions we had requested — and received — on our relatively short vacation. Whether guiding us to new restaurants, area shops, or the natural pleasures of this botanical garden, our family had been eager to offer instructions to successfully direct us from unfamiliar to familiar locations. Only the perspectives of these directions had been different; their intent and content were essentially the same.
As I strolled on the garden paths, I reflected on the many unique viewpoints that together offer a cohesive world view. Perspectives as varied as the trumpeting blooms and sculpted topiaries in this garden combined to create an enjoyable experience for any person willing to pause to appreciate and accept them. I believe how a person interprets the world — people, places and events — is based on and influenced by that individual’s unique perspective. While this belief seems both fundamental and obvious, its implications affect everything from the daily and mundane to the global and critical.
While I paused to photograph the gently arching branches of a Japanese maple and marveled at the subtle gradation in rosy hues of a clump of zinnias, my husband was entranced by the slow green swirls of algae on the surface of a nearby pond. We both reveled in the beauty of being able to see and appreciate the world and enjoyed the renewal granted by this special afternoon shared in a place rich with peaceful energy and natural beauty.
Whether I’m celebrating the beauty of this changing season or navigating the landscape of autumn’s days, I remind myself of the many possible ways to view and travel through the world. And I nourish the hope that a flexible and respectful perspective will someday guide the actions of all people and fortify communication and collaboration throughout the world.