Monday, July 29, 2013

Long car trips

Long car trips... there's something about them that is simultaneously appealing and repelling. In general I rather like them. As a girl I would be crammed into the back of my parents' car for these long trips, usually with a bag of something-or-another lodged under my feet to keep me entertained for the journey (typically books). While reading in the car never bothered me, inevitably I'd wind up spending half the time staring out the window.

Watching the scenery pass by had the strange hypnotic effect of watching laundry in a dryer. I'd stare at the tall, yellowed grasses by the roadside, flicking my eyes back and forth to create a clear, still scene instead of the general blur nearby things become at high speeds. I'd watch the road rise and fall in comparison to the surrounding land--or more accurately, watch the land rise and fall in comparison to the road.

Public domain image
Road cutaways.
Road cutaways, where mountains or hills still bore the patterned slices from the process that made the road flat, where I could see the colors of the hill's insides and speculate on what sorts of rock ("shiny and dark" or "dull and white" was about as technical as I got at that point) filled it, were some of favorite scenes.

But water also had its special, telling beauty, with light glimmering over its surface and the edge-of-the-water societies just touched with a feel of relaxed rusticity. Of course most of my lakeside experiences were vacations at a friend of the family's home on the lake, so surely every home by the lake was a place were people were kicking back and taking it easy, and thus my imagination always had life slow, happy, and easy in these dock-bearing homes.

Then there were the tree-lined roads that left me feeling like I was journeying under a canopy, a secret trail where I'd meet a Bombadil of my own, or some monster I'd have to heroically defeat to save my family. They were tunnels through jungles (sometimes suburbs and rural highways look like jungles to children with active imaginations...) with ziggarauts of gold at the end, or ruins containing the secrets to curing all disease everywhere.

And nothing beat the foggy mountain highways, just in the edge of winter, when a sheer cutaway cliff had been half-reclaimed by greenery. In winter there were white frozen streams crystalline among the weaving evergreen sprouts clinging to the rock. In summer, the frozen streams were dark streams spouting from the hidden earth, pouring with diamond spray-sparkles over bright green moss and ferns between those same evergreen sprouts. And in spring and fall, it was all that existed, every other angle fading from view into the thick whiteness of fog, so that you were at the center of a very small world. Every creeping inch was a new discovery, and somehow the encompassing white made every green and brown and grey brighter, vibrant, brilliantly alive.

(These days, driving in fog is much less fun, since I'm the one in the driver's seat...)

 While long hours of sitting still don't come easily to most children, finding myself swept away in the green made the lack of running around bearable. Of course the prospect of long car drives always leaves that restless feeling, but there are compensations.

We live in a beautiful world.

Did you ever enjoy long car rides? What were your favorite, or least favorite, parts?

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