Saturday, May 2, 2009


We're moving uneasily into a gentler season. I am happy to leave the winter behind. It's best not to think too much about winter until it's over. In winter I sometimes get the feeling that we are all hanging onto life by our fingernails, deluding ourselves that our little cardboard houses can protect us from the elements, that we won't end up sliding into a ditch, that the power will stay on. Obligations have required a lot of driving this worries have made the anticipation of long drives stressful, but once we get going I begin to enjoy and appreciate our transit of Maine, particularly the stretch of I-95 between Bangor and Augusta.

Along that route we pass through forests thick with second-growth fir, cedar and spruce. The early sun pinks up the bark of birch trees in groves; we pass by meanderings of black creeks winding into a softness of still-snowy woods. We pass over rivers and ponds; hedgerows of leafless trees make lacy patterns on the snow and across the new grass; beaver dams rise out of the marshes where sumac wands redden with a hint of spring. The sky on fine days is a wash of blue-gray and on cloudy days a creamy white expanding into infinity over the curving road. I love that drive. I, in fact, love most drives.

I have often thought that driving alone across the country would be a wonderful time of self-discovery and affirmation - I don't think I would be lonely doing it. Of course, being lonely and being alone are very different. Loneliness implies permanence, despair and a certain underlying sense of panic. But being alone is a temporary state that anticipates the eventual and inevitable embrace of others and as such, my moments alone are times I look forward to with pleasure.

The sense of the impermanence of being alone gives me the space to think comfortably, get things straight in my head (if only briefly) and then I can happily look forward to not being alone.

Driving alone I think long thoughts, appreciate the distance between things, feel the bones of the countryside and immerse myself in the waterfall of impressions glimpsed at 50 - 60 mph: the minutiae of backyards, little towns, clouds, distant city skylines, horses in fields, hawks sweeping over the road, and my own internal landscape.

And then, best of all, I can turn around and drive back home to the people I love.