Awake and Alive
7:40 a.m. Morning always comes too soon. I’m never quite ready to face the world, but the 25 minute drive to work helps. I drive the same route, see the same sights, and sometimes pass the same motorists. I’m in the world, but still secluded. I can see other people, but I don’t have to interact with anyone just yet.
The drive is ritualistic. I know that, depending on the music, I can generally get through six tracks on a CD. I watch the dashboard clock and know that if I don’t turn onto a certain road by 7:54, I’ll be late for work. I scan the drivers of other vehicles, hoping to spot a familiar face. My co-worker Mary, perhaps, taking her daughters to school. The lady who wear an awesome cowboy hat and drives a red Jeep. Others that I recognize but will never know. We’re each isolated. We occupy the same space, but never interact.
I watch others’ rituals, too. Sometimes, I count the people drinking coffee, the people on cell phones, the women putting on mascara in their rearview mirrors.
I also observe progression. Gas prices, displayed on roadside signs, rise and fall. A church is almost finished with its new building. New houses, built mere feet apart, appear in a growing subdivision. Leaves transform from green to gold, burgundy, and brown.
During the last five minutes of my drive, however, the observation ends. I turn off the busier highway onto a curving back road, and the interaction begins. I drive with the window down. Leaves flutter down to the pavement, then swirl up again as I drive past. Some mornings, fog lies low on the landscape, cloaking the ponds, farms, and cows in a supernatural mist. The sun hovers above mountains painted in autumn colors.
I’m awake and alive. I’m part of this creation. And I’m ready for the day to begin.
Headlights on Dark Roads
9:30 p.m. On my way home, I drive the same roads in reverse. Rarely do I make this drive in the dark, but I stayed on campus after work to watch a movie with friends. I’m tired, so I roll the window down, but a chill pervades the air. I compromise by turning the heat on and pulling down my sweatshirt sleeves. Autumn is here, and it’s too good not to be breathed in as often as possible.
The road is unfamiliar in the dark. Reflectors and yellow lines shine in the glow from my headlights. The autumn leaves, so bright and colorful in the mornings, seem dull and muted, but still beautiful. Stars hover in the clear sky.
I’m alone, but not lonely. Solitary, but not isolated. The road feels like home. I feel grounded. My identity is solid. I have no one to impress, no one who needs me. In this moment in time, nothing bothers me. Only this moment exists: the cool November air filling my lungs, the black asphalt running beneath me, the music that I love vanquishing the silence.
I’m finally where I belong.