[ I wrote this post last Friday, and since then have had some internet issues where I've had to get a bit creative to get this post on here. Long story :). I arrived here last Tuesday morning, and so this post is actually old news now. I finished decorating my room, and it feels good to have my things around me once again, placed expressively and lovingly in a space that is uniquely mine. It feels real good. ]
I traveled in silence.
It wasn't something I set out to do with conscious intent. In fact, I had gathered all my favorite cd's, and placed them within easy reach for the trip. It is my habit when I drive long distances to play music, munch on snacks, entertain myself in various ways, like, for example, counting all the red cars I see. Yet I found my hand stopping in mid-reach anytime I thought of popping in a cd, hesitating in grabbing some munchies, and I didn't count one red car. My spirit desired silence. I felt the silence gather around me like a cloak, nothing but the hum of my truck's engine, the whine of the tires, and the wind giving sound. After awhile, I didn't even really hear that. I felt cocooned...just me and my cat, Saki. She felt the silence too, I think. For after just a couple of hours on the road, she settled into a peaceful alertness, and for the most part remained that way whenever she was awake.
It was a long trip from Arizona to Ohio, and hot. My friend, Chris, who is one of my roommates, drove behind me in his new truck. We stopped for fuel, bathroom breaks, but for the most part drove until we couldn't drive anymore. Driving through the deserts of New Mexico, and some of Texas felt long, with nothing of real interest for me to feast my eyes upon. I took a couple of pictures of a stormy sky in New Mexico, and some of long horn steers in Texas, but after that, even my camera remained asleep, and silent by my side during the trip.
I felt...free...and luxuriated in it, much as I would taking a hot bath surrounded by heavenly scents. The shields and walls I kept erected around me for far too long began to crumble, coming down, no longer needed. I breathed easy, my heart rate slowing to an untroubled beat. When I found myself struggling to remain awake, or feeling discomfort, I asked myself, "What in this moment do you enjoy?" It had the effect of changing my view, searching for what I liked in my surroundings. With it came a renewed flow of energy. Joy is like the Energizer Bunny hopping in.
The farther east we traveled, the higher the humidity climbed, but it was in Arkansas that I began to feel the wet air as something sultry, almost sensuous. Even within my air conditioned vehicle I could feel the wetness of the air on my skin. My skin loved it, I loved it. And that surprised me. I didn't know how I'd deal with high humidity after living in the dry air of the west for so long. It feels wondrous, as lush as the surrounding growth of greenery. That evening, we stopped at a rest area and I saw the first lightning bugs I've seen in years and years. The surrounding forest was alive with the sounds of frogs, crickets, and cicadas, and a lone mockingbird singing into the night. I walked a short distance from the vehicles and lights, and stood still beneath a canopy of trees, listening to the symphony of the night forest, watching the lights from the firefly's magic. I breathed in the warmness of the air, let my skin soak in it, and felt as if I was in heaven.
While traveling through Arkansas, right outside Conway, I saw a plume of smoke rising up, and as I got closer, traffic slowed to a crawl, and in the median was a car on fire. When I slowed down, I felt my left front tire wobbling, and took the nearest exit to Conway. There I found out if it wasn't for that car being on fire, slowing me down, I could have had a terrible accident. The repair guys wondered how the tire hadn't blown already. They suggested I count the fiery car as a blessing in disguise, and thank my Maker. I did.
I loved, loved, loved Tennessee. As soon as we crossed the Tennessee river taking us into Memphis, I felt my spirit quicken. The humidity lingered, but the air was blue, the green richer, softer, deeper. I know someday I will make my way back there. My ancestors call my spirit there.
I hated Kentucky, even though I never really saw it because we drove through the state at night. But there was so much construction on every highway we traveled that I found I had to constantly remind myself to unclinch my teeth, and relax my shoulders and arms. At one point while driving through a particularly nasty bit of construction, we reached the top of a hill, and I looked to my left to find a huge sign that simply stated, "Hell Is Real." I laughed crazily, and said aloud, "Yes it is, and I'm right here on it on highway 65!" We were almost clear of Kentucky, just seventy some miles from our destination in Ohio, when my back tire blew. Most likely brought on by the horrible roads we had just driven on, because it is certain my back tire was okay when I left Conway, Arkansas. I know, because I checked, and double-checked all my tires before leaving there. It flattened to the rim, and the truck was so low to the ground we couldn't fit the jack under it. By this time, Chris and I were so tired we just kinda stared at each other. Eventually we had to call and awaken our roommate, who had to call and awaken his father so he could borrow a low-jack to be able to change my tire. Chris and I hung out in our respective vehicles while we waited the couple of hours for help. As I sat in my truck, silent, exhausted from driving all night, I watched the light begin to dawn on the horizon, casting pink on the cottony clouds floating overhead. The birds began to sing a delicate song from the surrounding trees. A soft rain fell.
I traveled in silence, and by the time I got to my new home I was more than ready to silently drift off to sleep. I'm not sure I've completely left the silence since arriving here early Tuesday morning. In between unpacking and decorating my room with my books and things that haven't seen the light of day in years, and one brief outing to town, I've taken the time to sleep...often. I've pretty much avoided my truck like the plague. That guard, that shield within me is still coming down, and with each layer that falls, I feel better and better.
Every evening I've sat out on the porch, watching the lightning bugs do their silent dance in the air, feeling the humidity on my skin, and I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm really here, and not dreaming. I no longer awaken every morning with a headache, and a tightness in my neck and shoulders. I am so glad to be here, and my heart sings in silent praise...