A Driving Meditation
Here in this corner of the globe the days have been rainy, misty, overcast, alternating between cold and somewhat chilly. It’s an introspective time, coming out of an interminable winter and from a long game of doctor tag. It’s the sort of thinking that happens when you spend too much time sitting and looking out the window, a sort of convalescing frame of mind and you’re aware of your own brain shifting gears up and down as it navigates the thoroughfares of memory and speculation.
Stretches of looking inwards last longer for some of us than others, but we all have them, those thoughts that are slotted in “what ifs” and “wonder whys.” You think along one road and something along the way triggers a memory, often unrelated, and so you think along the new road, and look, wow, there’s something you hadn’t noticed before, an angle on a long-ago memory that would have given you so much information at that time if you only had the wisdom or experience to pay attention.
But that was then, and this is now. You can think back on strange aunts and odd cousins and see past what was said of them at the time and now take a look at who was saying those things. I’ve noted that so many who declared others strange or odd turned out to be pretty strange and odd themselves. In turn I step back and remember the things said to me and consider the source. Time changes the color of nearly everything. It doesn’t make me any more or less strange and odd, nor the aunts and cousins, but it levels the playing field a bit.
I do some of my best thinking during long drives by myself going from minor point to minor point on Midwestern four-lane highways without much traffic. The broad flat umber stretches of fields between the end of harvest and emerging new crops are the canvas my car of light gray paint travels in a composed line of dark gray highway. Small barns in the distance grow upon approach, others are off to the side and stay the same size before growing smaller. What were those issues? An open barn door, an unpleasant smell for half a mile, staying in memory long after the air actually clears.
Alone, in the quiet of a car on the highway the unpleasant and pleasant alike have an equal chance, nuance holding its own, shades of gray becoming more defined in their own right. I do not like this, I do not like that, I like something else altogether, all in the cold gray light of gray skies gray afternoon gray car gray road gray flat land–and then a bit of sun works its way out from several layers of gray clouds, giving things more depth with shadows.
Closer back to town there are little woodlands and overpasses, the traffic picks up and moves me back into the present, interweaving with different vehicles of color, much deeper and more certain from the roads just traveled.