|Looking east Monday morning|
...The moment I joined [inadvertently] that interstate, with its huge semis and high speeds, I seemed to have left Arizona behind and entered another world that existed only in long, straight two-hundred-foot-wide swathes. I was driving at an enforced remove from the landscape, as though someone had placed a clear, plastic tunnel over the road. The world of the interstate forced out the real world. All I could hear was traffic. All I could smell was burned gasoline. And with ears and nose assaulted, even my eyes felt dimmed.
The interstate, I realized, is an exercise in sensory deprivation.
Lesley Hazleton, DRIVING TO DETROIT: MEMOIRS OF A FAST WOMAN (1999)
...He cranked up an old Edison phonograph, the kind with the big morning-glory blossom for a speaker, and put on a wax cylinder. This will be ‘My Mother’s Prayer,’” he said. While I ate buttermilk pie, Watts served as disc jockey of Nameless Tennessee. “Here’s ‘Mountain Rose.’” It was one of those moments that you know at the time will stay with you to the grave: the sweet pie, the gaunt man playing the old music, the coals in the stove glowing orange, the scent of kerosene and hot bread. “Here’s ‘Evening Rhapsody.’”
- William Least Heat-Moon, BLUE HIGHWAYS: A JOURNEY INTO AMERICA (1983)
Reading my notes of the trip – images, bits of conversations, ideas – I hunted a structure in the events, but randomness was the rule. ... [L]ater that afternoon, a tactic returned to me from night maneuver training in the Navy: to see in deep darkness you don’t look directly at an object – you look to the left; you look at something else to see what you really want to see. Skewed vision.
memory of fear and of the conversation I had with two astonished women living there and could hardly believe that a couple from près de Chicago (my usual geographic explanation of where we were from) had ventured such a trek.
Closer to home, there was last fall's walk out through bracken and old pine stumps when I stumbled upon the bearing tree.
Aimless wandering? What can be better?
There is an element of memoir in both Blue Highways and Driving to Detroit, but the personal details given, whether of divorce, melancholy, anxiety, grief, or just plain discomfort and impatience, always have to do with what is an important personal journey, and this lifts them above daily diary minutiae.
|Looking west Monday morning|
As for my own life, at present the road is still unrolling without me, except for my beloved back roads near home, and today under blue sky and sunshine I have no complaints whatsoever. (Is it only coincidence that the conversations all around me this morning in the coffee house have to do with long-distance travel? We kid ourselves if we think we are not a migratory species.) Actually, even under grey, cloudy skies on Sunday, it was worthwhile being out on the county roads, observing young, feathered families. Some of them will stay the winter, and some will fly south.