Friday, May 16, 2008

A drive

My son and I drove across the state today. Yep, from the northwest corner to the eastern border, we drove a route I've been traveling most of my life. I could drive it in my sleep, practically. At least I know where the cops like to linger just up the hill from Vantage toward Royal City, just about where we enter the no-cell-phone coverage area. I know when to look up from my book in time to spot the "Go Cougs!" sign on the side of the barn outside of Othello, and when to put my shoes on for the last rest area before we get to Pullman (unless one is desperate and counts the one at Dusty, but trust me, that barely counts!). Yep, it's a road I've been on a time or two.

I rode on it in a car loaded with my brother and sisters, mom and dad, when we all got sick, and I threw up on our dog right in the middle of the Vantage bridge over the Columbia River. A couple of holiday trips it took something like 13 hours to make the trip home from Seattle because of the snow. My mom would be so mad at my dad and brother on those trips--she had to manage three girls' toilet needs, while they just stepped outside and aimed. Years later, the Beve and I drove that road to visit our families, with our wee children, also in bad weather, also stopping on the side of the road at times, and I have to say, as he and the son stood pointing away from the car, I understood exactly how my mother felt. Oh, the injustice of being female! I asked our pediatrician once about managing long car trips with children, and he said, "Wait for the first sniffle, then give them all Dimetapp." Mind you, we had three children in three and a half years so there was always a sniffle in the car. And miraculously, those children always slept their way across the state. Ah the things we'll do to make the trip easier...

There's something about a road we've traveled so many times that makes us that way--makes us lazy, you know? We think we know everything there is to know about it. Exactly what lies ahead, how to drive it. We stop paying attention, don't enjoy it. But it also makes us hurry, this drive we're so used to. We know exactly how long it should take, and we're marking time, that's for sure. It's only about getting there. Just the other day, the Beve and I went for a drive to a place we'd never been before. And for that whole drive, I couldn't get over how pretty it was, how much there was to see. I just loved that drive. And it made me think of the way my family took drives when I was a little kid--just out wandering the countryside, to see what there was to see. A brand new world to see.

It feels like all of life can be like this drive I've taken a thousand times. Doesn't it? Doing your life over and over and over. My writing life has certainly felt that way the last few years. Just trying to get there, doing the work, the same work that I did yesterday, that I might have to do tomorrow. And sometimes it's as boring as that drive. I get to the end of the road, then turn around and drive it again. And yet today as we drove it, the sky was blue and the sun shone and I was with my son, and it was good. And my life, the work, the same work I've done over and over and over? The clouds are parting there as well. And I think, I hope, I believe, I am about to get off this road. So maybe, just maybe I'll pay attention to whatever there is to see here before, like Robert Frost, I don't pass this way again.

Maybe you're lucky enough never to feel this way about your life. But maybe like me, you realize you could never be a long-term trucker on the same patch of concrete. And it's time to find few new roads to travel. This blog? It's that new road for me.

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