There’s something about the motion of the road that soothes me. The passing scenery, the sound of tires on pavement, the concentration required. The process settles me into a placid place.
Today, I drove ten hours from Shannon, New Brunswick to White River Junction, New Hampshire. I passed farms tucked into fields at the base of hills, towers that would be lighthouses if the sea was in sight, country stores that sold Necco wafers and cast iron pans. By the time I checked into this hotel room, I was exhausted and so calm.
This passion for driving seems to be genetic. My grandfather (my mom’s dad) was a mechanic and drove cars from dealership to dealership until the last few years. He just loved being on the road.
When my brother and I were kids, my parents took us all over the U.S. by car. I would sit in the back and sleep, read, and make up songs. It was the perfect place to think.
When I want to get to know someone well, one of my favorite things to do is take a road trip with them. I get to hear their music and talk with them in the shelter and closeness that a car creates. Somehow, conversations come easily when we’re moving forward in the world.
I also love listening to the radio – great music shows like Connections, a program that plays the music of people performing in the Maritimes, or This American Life – or listen to audio books (The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society was today’s choice.) In a car, I can’t walk away because I “should” be doing something else, and so I sit and let myself fall into the msuic and the stories.
I wonder how I could mimic these things in my writing. Is there a way to get the focus and easy concentration that comes over me when I drive? Could I find language and depth of thought sitting stationary at my desk? Could I make myself read for an hour a day? Or maybe I need to make driving part of my writing practice? A few hours of week on the road to clear my head and settle into language again. I’ll have to consider that idea.
Tomorrow, I head out again down to Poughkeepsie (entirely because of the Over the Rhine song by that name, by the way). I’m going to get an early start so I can watch the world wake up to my left as I head south. I’ll catch a quiet show on NPR or finish up with the stories of Guernsey and World War II. I’ll think and pray and breath deep as I watch the Hudson River Valley fill up my view.