distance

The lights bobbed in the distance, as if the land had turned liquid and they were beacons moving up and down with the swells.  Blinking my tired eyes did little to stabilize the view.  This was nothing new, though.  My weak eyes had long had problems with lights at distance in the dark.  That sentence would remain true if it had just been distance.  The dark only made it worse.  Lights were a trick I would always fall for, a riddle I could never solve.

The lights continued to bounce and I carried on, trying to ignore them and their trickster commentary on my shortcomings.  The day would come and the lights would fade behind me and out of my memory while the sun took its place in my horizon.  The distance would solidify once more.  My sight would improve.  And the two, intertwined, would improve my mood even if only for a short time.  Sometimes that is all that is needed, a small moment of hope and brilliance, of clear sight, to fight against the darkness of our days and thoughts.

The lights crashed and retracted.  My mind raced.  The road beneath my tires slipped by from the darkness ahead to the darkness behind, the dashed yellow line ticking off the miles.  The lights, moving unnaturally in their swaying, hypnotizing, distracting way, tried to grab my attention, tried to suck me into their depths and I ignored them.  But, not entirely.  They held too much sway in the way they moved, like buoys on a rising sea, for me to forget them entirely.

just a normal drive

It is surreal, on my dark morning drives, to travel down empty stretches of backroads where the only light is provided by my car pressing forward towards the coming day, to then have that serenity distorted by the glowing fields where crops are being blasted with LEDs to mimic daylight and therefore hasten their growth.  The immense and intense light glares and blasts skyward to spread beneath the ever present marine layer, amplifying the impact, the disturbance of my peaceful drive.

Then again, people do need to eat.  And the lights are on an organic farm.  No pesticides.  No genetic modifications.  The lights are an experiment to see if the farm can produce better food faster under improved, mostly natural, conditions.  I can’t fault them for that.  The needs of the many outweigh my own desires for a pleasant drive through the morning darkness.

And yet, I do fault them all the same.  We are selfish creatures.  The people who will benefit from that food are abstract and in the moment, all I really can consider is my own grievance, the own detriment to my night vision, to my drive, to the start of my day.

But then the lights fade away and I’m left in peace again and all is right.

all together in the end

The fog, heavy upon the land, stifled movement and choked what little light there was.  Even the moon, full and majestic, did little to break the grasp of the dense blanket of dew.  While the metal walls shielded me from the cold and damp, my bones still ached from them.  Everything but time was dulled and slow.  My joints throbbed in time to the seams of the road.

Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.

I scanned the darkness in search of lurking dangers.  The view from my cage on wheels was distorted through the layers of fog.  Other cars could have been inches away and they might have gone unnoticed.  Pedestrians and bikers would have been invisible completely.  I scanned the darkness and was plagued by doubt.  Was I in control or was that just an illusion of hope?  My heart beat furiously in my chest.

Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.

The sounds of the drive were all wrong.  The water heavy air absorbed all, robbing me of the clarity in all senses I might have had otherwise.  Not quite all, though, as the most sinister of pitches slipped through unblemished to plague my worries.  I adjusted the stereo to cover my fears and music blared through the speakers around me.  I joined my voice in song as the drumline rattled my cage.

Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.

They say that things are often darkest before the light, and in those moments well before sunrise with the night dimmed further by the thick fog, I dreamt of bursting free of my isolation as the sun peeked over the horizon.  I dreamt of driving into the fire while the dew burned away in splashes of golden red.  I dreamt of stepping clear of my cage to revel in the glory of another new day.  The fears gnawing on my thoughts fell away and the rhythm of my heart slowed to match the beat of the music.

Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.

My driving dreams did not come to fruition, of course, as the world often failed the expectations of my imagination, but the fog did dispel, relinquishing its grasp on my senses.  The full moon, directly overhead, exploded light onto the fields around me.  My aching bones ceased their complaints.  The sounds of the morning returned.  My sight returned as well.  It was early still and the day had plenty of time to bloom glorious.  The music, my heart, and the road came together in anticipation.

Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.  Thump-thump.

clear

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When I fantasize about moving away from the boring weather of southern California, where it never snows, or rains, or freezes, or does anything interesting at all, I would do well to remember this drive.

My knuckles were white on the steering wheel.  My nerves were frayed.  My jaws were clenched in concentration and exhaustion.  My eyes burned from the strain of trying to find every dangerous spot on the road and avoid it before it was too late.

I’ve driven in some weird weather before.  I’ve fought against blasting winds that raked through the desert and threatened to push me off the road.  I’ve had to put my hazards on and pray that nobody was driving recklessly behind me as I drove five miles an hour with my door open so I could see the lines of the road in an intensely thick fog.  I’ve felt the force of hail and rain lash down from the sky so fiercely that I thought my windshield would surely shatter.

This was something different…

Miles and miles of ice, from snow that had fallen and then melted and then frozen, covered the blacktop in sheets on the highway up and down the rolling mountain passes of the eastern Sierra.

I knew we were finally safe when I saw a mist rising on the horizon.  The day was warming and the ice was beginning to thin.  Soon the road would be clear.

Paved With Irony

She merged onto the Interstate to save herself.

The grooves in the road met the treads in the tires with a measured thump-thump, in a cadence so perfect that her heart used it as a metronome to keep pace.

The purr of her car’s engine spoke to the buzzing in her mind and calmed it to a gentle hum.

The exhaust system emitted a throaty growl as the tailpipe exhaled sweet fumes. In a normal response she would have inhaled deeply to saturate her brain cells with the life-robbing gas. Tonight, she allowed her lungs steady and mindful breaths.

Her thoughts wandered, but her peripheral vision remained sharp, most notably with the lines and the signs.

The dashed lane markers blurred into a line that reminded her to stay in the center. The signs sent their own messages.

Orange signs meant construction and a SNAFU in traffic matters ahead. She paid them little heed as hers was the only car on the road.

Green signs meant that a street was approaching at a certain point. When the point was reached, an arrow demanded that the driver exit.

Blue signs politely invited the motorist to do the same, with promises of fuel, food, and rest.

She ignored all. She was relaxed and thought about the crippling anxiety she felt just an hour ago and how she wanted to end it. Now, she felt a calm and peace. She knew all would be okay. She closed her eyes for a moment. As she opened them, she caught a sign that read, “Right Lane, 1.5 Miles.”

Her mind tried to piece it together. Right lane closed in 1.5 miles? She was in the center lane. Her thoughts wandered again. During Driver Education, her instructor warned her about highway hypnosis. She always thought that the concept was absurd. Tonight she realized it could happen.

Her mind came back to “The Present.” She saw that she missed the orange and white exit sign in the right lane. Straight ahead, she saw the sign that read, “Bridge Out.”

Earlier she merged onto the Interstate to save herself.

She smiled at her final thought.

“Oh, the irony.”