I’ve been on the road lately. A week ago on Saturday, I drove to Houston, and this past Friday I drove home. The first trip I did in a straight 13-hour shot, dancing between a storm coming down from the north and another storm heading across the south. The second trip I took in two days.
But either way, Kansas to south Texas is a long trip.
Kansas to Texas is a trip I’ve been taking since 1962 when I was pregnant with my first son. My husband was a soldier and we were being stationed in Ft. Hood. Since then, at regular intervals, more or less, I’ve returned, living there three times in all and visiting other times. This time, I went south to visit my older sister and help her downsize for a move.
Driving thirteen hours, whether in one day or two, gives a person a lot of time for not much of anything. When I’m traveling with Cliff and he’s driving, the car rocks me into naps, but when I’m driving and have the necessity of staying alert, the car’s movement lulls me into a vigilant reflection. There’s not a whole lot to see on the road to Texas, so amusing oneself in one way or another is the only remedy.
Much of my history is defined by the Texas trips. I began traveling to Texas when the route was still Highway 77 and wound through the Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma. Now it takes a special side trip to find the switch back road into Turner Falls. Both my sons were born at Ft. Hood. I met Cynthia when I moved to Central Texas the second time in 1970. And in 1979, I moved to Austin because she was there. In 2001, I went back to preside at her funeral. My history, my life-journeys, if you will, lie balanced on each side of that Kansas/Texas meridian.
Much of my life has been lived on the East Coast; the other part – the part not spent driving back and forth to Texas – has been spent in the West. And yet, somehow, I’ve returned to the same route time after time, driving north and south between Kansas and Texas.
I often hear people talk about finding their true path but I, who have been on the road much of my life, have a hard time understanding the concept. My path has carried me across water and mountains into Europe, the Caribbean, to Mexico; I’ve lived all across this country from the edge of New York to the Hawaiian islands. And yet, time after time, I’ve been brought back to travel north to south, south to north, along this central line. I’ve taken many journeys but the path has remained the same path.
William Least Heat Moon wrote, “If you leave a journey exactly who you were before you departed, the trip has been much wasted, even if it’s just to the Quickee-Mart.”
Perhaps it’s easier to see how the journeys all add up to the same path when you’ve been on the road a lot, but in truth, the path is always right below our feet – whether those feet are walking around the block or pushing an accelerator. The difference lies in how we want to perceive our path and what we want to learn from it – in taking the time to find meaning in what we see as we travel.
And there’s the challenge isn’t it – finding meaning in the Quickee-Mart. I suspect that if that were our goal, that trusting-the-path-wherever-we-are sort of thing, we’d find it.