“There is no need to run outside for better seeing
Nor to peer from a window
Rather abide at the center of your being
The more you leave it
the less you learn
Search your heart and see
For if she is wise who takes each turn the way to do is to be”
Tao Te Ching
I arrived back home to snow, just a couple inches covering the ground, with a little more to follow. I fetch Barkley, check the computer, a message to my best friend that I'm home and safe, and I hit the bed like some toppled Easter Island Statue, waking up, nose stuffy and stuffed into the pillow. I don't remember dreaming, but as I lay there, half awake, Barkley not yet waking to my sounds, thoughts rolled back like tide, exposing rocky shore.
I'd like to say the thoughts were anything of great wisdom, but they were simply the disjointed musings of a mind not yet awake, filtering the news I caught up on upon return. Reports to be viewed when back on duty, the local news, wondering if they have cleaned up all of the many pileups during the ice and whiteouts earlier in the week. Then wondering if someone crashed near that huge sign north of here that proclaims "HELL IS REAL" and reconciling my forgiving God with the one who would send folks off to hell like some Nazi routing train or the one that others say simply does not exist, because they can't explain Him in conventional scientific means.
For now, I am not going to sort out the nature of God, road signs OR the universe, and likely won't later. It's Saturday, I don't have to get on a plane or crawl in a truck. There is coffee, and a cold snout containing a fuzzy ball, shoving it at me with all the insistence of a drill instructor - "It's morning, suck it up Mom, I'm hungry".
I look outside, more snow. Partner is overseas somewhere saving the world. I will have to make another long drive soon, but for now I can try my hand at Pop Tarts for Grown Ups. It's nice to get up and not have to drive anywhere, to instead, just lay out dough and cream cheese, fruit and spices with the musing reflex of hands, as coffee brews and the snow falls outside, removing all the traces of my arrival.
Then, there are the people, that by the nature of their work, are on the road, truckers, military personnel, engineers, contractors, pilots, many whom travel a thousand miles to get to work each week, on standby, hoping for an empty seat, fueled by adrenalin and lousy airport chow. I miss flying, but not enough to want to do that now.
But I've done it, gotten up at 2 in the morning for a mission that started at 4. Getting up that early is just NOT natural, it's like turkey bacon or Toronto Maple Leaf fans doing a polite golf clap when the Montreal Canadiens score. It's cold and oily dark, stubbing your toe on a wheel chock someone threw off to the side, as if there was a new Highland game of "FOD tossing". It's starting a engine that is not full of oil or gas but only cold personal contempt for your attempt to bring it to life when it clearly has a headache and wishes to be left alone. It's a a long day, a cold bed, and dinner that's Raman noodles heated in your room coffee pot.
On my drives, I have music, from Yo Yo Ma to Metallica. I've never cared for audio books. The last one I tried was "American Prometheus" about J. Robert Oppenheimer. It's an outstanding book of man, of history and the moral conseequences of scientific progress. But here were SO many names in the book, and trying to sort out the vast chronological narrative where a hundred characters were weaving in and out of chapters, like that texting guy ahead in thae Chevy Subdivision, was a distraction. I like to read the old fashioned way, turning the pages,where I can think, stop, ponder. I prefer to fully immerse myself in a book, not have it be background noise to "Hell is Real" I-65 North.
If Lao Tzu had envisioned the Tao Te Ching being heard through earbuds while someone was at their Spin class, he might not have put his thoughts on paper.
People say "but it's all flat, what is there to look at?" Probably what my grandparents saw when they settled here, the sunny loneliness of vast tracks of earth that are outside of the limits of age and haste, where the fields and woods seem to hover in some inescapable equidistance that is both stasis and motion, fading as you near them, like mirages. It's not the beauty of the mountains, of the oceans, but it is beauty that lies with its beholding, like many things..
But with the beauty, can come danger, especially in winter. I have my emergency road kit, which at a minimum, contains a heat source, light source, a sleeping bag and a thick blanket for Barkley and a long leash, a shovel, matches and a plumbers candle, a knife, some rope, protein bars and trail mix, a bag of kibble, water and a bowl and a blaze orange vest to use as a signal from the antenna if needed or to wear over my parka. I have things for direction and protection.
It's the American commute, the long monotonous continuation of undeviating road, from day to dark and dark to day, through which I slowly slip around and ahead of those anonymous and deliberate vehicles that move ahead like shiny avatars. Even with the occasional 10-20 minute slow down by some trucker wishing to pass another trucker in the only open lane because he can go 1 mph faster, I make decent time.
There are cars with stickers, and signs, the obligatory little stick figure decals of family, which seldom vary much but for the harried Mom in a poorly maintained van full of kids, where the Dad figure had his head cleanly removed with a razor and another green vehicle with little sticker figures of two guys and 5 cats.
For years I just moved as fast I as could, traveling so as to leave grief behind, lots of photos of planes and places but few possessions, no city or street or place really mine, no square ground of earth really home. I chose that, was fully aware of it and I carried that knowledge with me like a flag, a quality as lonely as it was proud.
But then one day, on another long drive, thinking of a recent note from someone on the other side of the world, I realized that home was not some plot of earth or address. Seeing myself through the eyes of another so very much like me, I realized that home was someplace within, the last place I had thought of looking for it.
The days of our parents and grandparents generation, where one lived in same house forever, Dad driving 10 minutes to work each day, are pretty much over. Our parents definition of "distance" was a few simple miles, paved with unflagging faith that their life post-war would be prosperous and peaceful, populated with kind and familiar voices and faces, not horns and traffic and strangers that use their middle finger as a turn signal.
There will still be days where I grab a mug of coffee and turn up the stereo loud, just to sing along, thinking of nothing further than the lyrics as I rush ahead. But if you drive today, if you commute on Monday morning, just this once, turn off talk radio, turn off your phone, think of what you have, what you may leave behind and the landscape of where you are going. You may find that when you arrive you will be more prepared to face that which lies ahead.
And take some homemade pastry, life is too short to worry about a few crumbs in your truck.