Friday, July 29, 2022

Traveling Solo

As a newly minted retiree, I am happily wandering the countryside in pursuit of waterfalls, covered bridges, quaint shops and other fun destinations.

In the nine-to-five structure of my days, these mini-adventures had to be squeezed into the weekends. Now, however, I get to unfold a map of my own design. I can draw lines from here to there and in-between, putting a star next to places of interest.

A ribbon of road, a fringe of forest, an endless blue sky. 

My vagabond soul.

Off-highway is my favorite choice. In "settings" I tell my navigation system to avoid freeways and toll roads. And off we go. 

Recently I was returning home from the Harrisburg, PA area and directed my GPS off-highway, as usual. The back roads were portals of wonder as I coasted through the Allegheny Mountains. Trees, dense and overgrown, met overhead to form a green canopy. For miles and miles, I met no other cars. I drove right into a canvas of aging barns and stately homes, hushed cemeteries and white steeples, landscaped lawns and laundry dancing in the breeze. 

Vegetable stands came into view and I slowed down so I could read signs that said, "Best Sweet Corn Ever, $3.00 a dozen" and "Leave Your Cash in the Basket if We're Not Here".  

This is the downhome rural America I love. In the cross sections of one-pump gas stations and enticing ice cream stands, I never once considered I could be doing 70 on a straight stretch of asphalt.

Meandering at 40 or 45 miles per hour, I took in acres of field corn, pastures of grazing cows, glorious bundles of hay as far as the eye could see.

As the shadows lengthened and dusk whispered in, I realized I still had hours to travel before reaching my driveway. 

Reluctantly, I switched my navigation to "highway" and accelerated into the blur of traffic. 

What I'd really like to see in our high tech world is a GPS that can track the intersection of Chaos and Possibility. I want to go there.

Wouldn't it be helpful if we could call a friend and say, "Meet me at the crossroads of Loss and Recovered Joy" ? 

Or, "Let's have coffee at that little place on Main Street - you know the one - where you empty the dregs of cold resentment and tank up on a large cup of affirmation!" My GPS will show me the way.

Or not.

No amount of technology will locate the corner of Loss and Acceptance; it's an organic mechanism of the human heart. 

No warp speed coordinates will zoom in on the corner of Anger and Forgiveness. You have to get there by fits and starts. By lurching sideways and avoiding the potholes of outrage.

Fact is, there is no straight highway, no winding back road, to a safe arrival. The best anyone can do is remain calm and trust the navigation. Oh, and take lots of stretch breaks. 

When we get to those mile markers, we should honk and wave, so the next traveler feels not so alone.

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