They say journaling is therapeutic, so what the heck. And I haven’t managed to offend anyone yet.
I love driving. Especially new and unknown roads. Ever since I got my license I’ve been drawn to the road, and there’s nothing like a good road trip. In high school we found a book from a local author – actually an alum of our high school – about a road trip to the badlands. To a bunch of high schoolers, their simple trip seemed like the most exotic adventure one could go on. And we went on a few of our own trips, just not as far as the badlands. Three friends and I would go out on Saturday night just driving around, letting our parents know we were just going to a fast food joint. We neglected to tell them our favorite was in Red Wing, fifty miles from home.
My daughter got the bug from me, and loves driving. She has her podcasts and caffeine to keep her going. My wife isn’t as much of a driver, but she has her own toolkit, including music and conversation. Most people like to have music or something on the radio, but I actually like the silence. When we drive to our cabin “up north” I usually do the driving while the wife naps. I can’t hear podcasts well and don’t like wearing earbuds in the car. Music is okay, but choosing the right vibe for the moment can be a hassle. So often I’ll just drive to the hum of the road. There’s a lot going on in my brain, so that’s the conversation that I listen to as I look for obscure routes and alternate roads to keep things interesting.
I have driven to the cabin probably hundreds of times now. There are three primary routes you can take, and they’re all within about 15 minutes of each other. I’ve done them all and found a few in between. My parents had driven to the cabin so often that they not only knew which roads were the most efficient down to the minute, but they could also offer a review of pretty much every Dairy Queen between home and the cabin.
They’ve built a new fast highway that cuts right through everything and knocks most of the alternate routes on their butt. Which is a bummer, because I like the lettered country roads. Fast highways mean passing and watching your speed vs watching for speed traps. It means trucks and vacationers and seeing the same vehicles for hours at a time. A good county road means decent pavement, most slow drivers will turn off sooner than later, and best of all they provide a plethora of things to see and wonder about along the way.
But it doesn’t matter if it’s a new road or an old one, I always find interesting things to see, almost constantly.
One time on the way to the cabin as the kids claimed they were bored, I rattled off the last five interesting things I had seen. A spiral staircase to nowhere, the tin man from Wizard of Oz riding a tractor, a BMX motorcycle practicing jumps, and more that I can’t remember. So even though I’ve done the route a million times, it seems like there is always something interesting and/or new to experience along the way.
I’m also an active driver, meaning when I drive that’s all I’m doing. I’m hyper alert to other cars in my blind spots, seeing what cars far away are doing and how that might impact me, my speed, etc. I’m watching for speed traps, though I don’t see that many any more, which takes much of the fun out of speeding. I don’t speed much, but mostly go with the flow of traffic 5 over the limit. I’m also watching for animals. There are deer between here and there. They’re usually grazing at the side of the road, or just crossing. Generally they dart back into the trees when they see you, but more often than you would think they dart in front of you. I haven’t hit a deer yet, and don’t want to. So I have great “deer eyes” and it not only helps stay safe, but I’ve caught a number of interesting creatures as they disappear in the woods. Deer, of course, black bears, foxes, even a cougar with babies! So many birds – Bald Eagles, hawks, sandhill cranes, blue heron, and my favorite – red winged blackbirds.
So it all adds up to the fact that driving makes me happy, calms me, and it’s a bit of a therapy all on its own.
My mental state has been able to allow me to keep driving, but there have been times (especially during ECT) where I wasn’t allowed to drive. The kids were right, the back seat is so boring! For the most part though I still get to have my mindfulness time driving down the road seeing what there is to see.
And that’s the sad part. I see so many little moments of beauty or oddity on my drives. Maybe a fox peeking over the road looking like he wanted to cross but knew it just wasn’t a good idea. Or the bear cub that sprinted for the trees and climbed five feet up the closest tree to the road – not a good hiding spot, and I was waiting for an angry Momma bear to pop out at any moment. I’ve seen crazy vehicles of all kinds, people doing all manner of activities while they drive, and roadside attractions both new and old. We don’t stop, but I notice every historical marker and think to myself that next time we should take the time to stop and learn. Or it could just be a beautiful landscape lit by the golden sun at dusk. I really love these little moments of beauty.
But with my memory issues, now I see these things, appreciate them, and try hard to remember them. But most of them these days are gone by the time I hit the next town, lost to the static in my head. It took me a while to realize it was happening, and now when I’m driving along and I see something like bison in great herds, I love the moment, but also realize right then and there that it’s fleeting. I don’t get to keep it to remember, or share with someone later down the road. And it’ll be gone before I know it. And that makes me sad.
So now when I see something fun, interesting, sad, or curious as I’m driving, I have the same sense of pleasure for having the experience, but I also grieve that moment because I know it only exists in that moment. And after it’s passed, it’s truly gone. And I hate that I now have sadness in my journeys.
It was bad enough on one of my recent trips that I started writing a poem in my head about the experience of fleeting beauty and the loss as it fades from memory. It was a great poem. I don’t write poetry, really, but I felt this captured the concept so well. Over the course of that weekend I also came up with the perfect title for the poem. I can remember exactly where I was when I lost it, too. It was as if it was dust and the rain washed it away in front of my eyes. And I’ll grieve that, too.
Forgetting a poem about forgetting.