non-pond.

Mostly I feel like running. I would run for days if I could. To feel the pressure of each breath, to feel that hard place in my chest beating incessantly in a way that was controlled only by the beating of each hard step, foot to pavement, and then again, and then again. Until I couldn’t any more.

Mostly I feel like running. I would run out to this pond I found once, only it reminded me of no pond I had seen before, it was really a lake with the potential to be an ocean, but the sign said it was a pond, so pond it remained, even though, if I had been consulted, I would have asked the non-pond pond if in fact it was a pond or if it felt more like a lake with dreams of becoming the ocean, or perhaps it felt like it was an ocean in hopes of being a pond, or even further, perhaps it actually felt it was a desert, despite the so obvious moisture that filled its crevices, obvious of course to those only with the benefit of seeing this non-pond from the outside, a luxury this non-pond, lake, potential ocean, possible desert never had nor could dream of ever being able to create.

I would run to this difficult to name place. Once there I would strip of myself and dive immediately deep, amongst the algae and the water plants that would have, in any other world, kept me on the shore, constricted and contained, I would brush past these plants to hit the muddy bottom of this place, pushing my hands deep within and hoping, expecting, wanting and needing to feel the earth in its nascent state, to the possible places where life begins, where life began, until that incessant beating in my chest returned, reminding me, calling me, pushing me to either go further in this task or return once again to find temporary relief in the uncertainty of all that remains above.

Mostly I feel like running. Only then can this pressure, this intensity of understanding, confusion, doubt, and truth, only then can the pressure of these items be relieved and replaced by the limitations of physical ability and desire to replace burden with burden, building of course until something has to give.

Once, while I was busy enjoying my non-pond pond a stranger appeared and asked rather innocently if I was enjoying this beautiful gulf.

I looked out as though I was seeing it for the first time.

Eventually I said yes, it is a rather amazing gulf, and I have been enjoying it quite nicely, thank you. Becoming aware that my pond, my non-pond, lake, almost ocean yet desert had been none of these things. It was a gulf. And yet it wasn’t. It was this stranger’s gulf. It was still my pond/non-pond/lake/hopeful ocean/almost desert place that I just easily gave away to also being a gulf.

That is about the amount of truth I hold.

That is about the amount of truth we all hold. If we are looking out, and there is a clear sign that says what we’re seeing is a pond, and I see a lake and you see a gulf, we both get to see our lake and our gulf. My insistence on the existence of a lake doesn’t detract or deny you of your gulf. Sometimes, in a potential universe that I hope may someday exist outside my mind, I believe in a small intersection where your seeing of a gulf and my seeing of a lake brings us both to a realization that we are instead looking at the headwaters of something grander than each of us was able to see on our own. That the existence of your truth and my truth can complement not conflict, and allow for new truths, new paths, strangers no more, allied and capable of slowing the ever charged ever energized never ending desire for running, possibly finding a moment sheathed in a time within a time where for, just a moment, the sweat tears are wiped away, and the sun, a sun that has overwhelmed me in its intensity, exists instead to provide an internal warmth and comfort. If even for just a moment.

If for just a moment I could give up the expectation that for this enormously orchestrated event to occur you must even see my lake. Should you never see my lake, and I never see your gulf, we could still get to that moment, lying in the sun, basking in a realness that can only exist when you’ve relieved yourself of the burdens of carrying your own truths, exchanged for the truths of a stranger, exchanged again for the truth of a place that doesn’t even really exist nor can be drawn on a map to be returned to again and again.

Again and again I am in pursuit of a moment, one instance of solace, a moment that will require years of work, effort, steps, timing, and all the acts of dispensing and replacing the truths that have been told in a way that honors even the un-truth truths and doesn’t allow the darkness held within these un-truths to merge with my identity, my soul, my being. And yet, my desire to separate truth from un-truth is a naiveté that must also be confronted and exchanged. Still, the potential for discovery of this moment is worth the effort involved, to uncover even a glimpse of a small space in this universe where there exists a sign that says pond but is your gulf and my non-pond/lake/potential ocean/possible desert, and we are strangers no more, running no more.

alaska.

There was this white, worn ford ranger pick up truck. It drove cautiously. Steadily. Intentionally. It’s driver peering over the steering wheel. I found myself driving behind it for what was easily forty miles, probably more. It was going the speed limit. This truck was going the speed limit, and yet I fell in line, not once looking behind to see if I might pass. Go around. Get by. No, I had no intention of passing this truck.

There was a solace in driving in this manner. In allowing one’s mind to be free in the space of not worrying what will happen next. Will this driver speed up, slow down? Not likely. This driver is maintaining. Going. Plodding.

I was in the middle of a long drive. A drive I was in no rush to finish. I really enjoy driving. I enjoy the long stretches of road when the songs on the radio become a blur of all things country or all things talk, and the best solution to the static mayhem that inevitably happens every twenty minutes or so is to just turn the thing off.

Driving without music.
I never used to understand driving without music.

Growing up we would take road trips, long ones. Florida to Arizona. Florida to North Carolina. Florida to Canada. I would sit shot gun in the family van, my dad driving. That’s where I learned to pop my gum. You know, that ricochet of pop pop pop pop pop pop. That was definitely a learned annoying habit, and I think I finally figured it out somewhere in the middle of Texas, my dad equally laughing and crying that I had, indeed, finally figured it out. I used to tear through packets of Big League Chew. I’d spend hours trying to blow bubbles that would break the Guinness book of world records, because the only goals back then that were worthwhile, were ones that could break whatever record was in that book.

So we would take these road trips. I’d have my gum and my mad libs, the occasional irritated round of I Spy with my brothers, and conversations with my dad. The conversations with my dad would go something like this:

Me: Dad, can we listen to the radio?
Dad: No.

………

Me: Can we listen to the radio now?
Dad: No.

………

Me: What if I just turned it on really low?
Dad: That’s even more aggravating than if it was on all the way. No.

And yet, on shorter road trips we would listen without question, and we’d listen to the oldies station. I know every well-played 50s and 60s song by heart. Occasionally we’d even listen to this cassette with some old guy on front with an enormous bushy grey beard and a twinkle in his eye. No, it wasn’t Santa Claus’ greatest hits, it was some guy who I’d later learn was Kenny Rogers. Those were the days. For those trips we’d take his Corolla, and I’d sit in the backseat, near the window if I was lucky, and when we’d get to the part of the drive where the pavement gave way to gravel then dirt, my brothers and I would take off our seatbelts and we’d giggle and scream as that Corolla hit every bump as my dad drove into them like he was in the Dukes of Hazzard, our heads just shy of hitting the top of the car, and for this one time only we’d fall onto each other without worrying about who was touching who. But that was a short road trip.

So I guess I didn’t really understand why there were times when driving with music made sense and other times, when it just wasn’t even an option.

Until I had kids.
Children.
Small humans.
That make sounds and noises, loudly.
And that talk. And have opinions.
And words.
So many words.

When driving in silence there is somehow an ability to turn the back of the car noise into road noise and, if you’re lucky, it just disappears. Focused on the road, sure. But lost in thought, pure thought.

That’s why I love a good road trip. A long road trip.

And that’s where I was, when I had been traveling for days, alone but with my children, and I found myself behind this white ford ranger pick-up, complete with rust and camper shell, and I was overwhelmed by a sense of safety and a remembrance of someone I had once loved, still love.

The last time I saw a truck like that old ranger I was not driving behind, but sitting behind the wheel. I was probably twelve. I could barely reach the gas, if I had to break I would probably have had to stand straight up. But there I was. Actually driving. Scared out of my mind. My grandpa said, “why not?” He said he was driving by the time he was eight. And he said when he got stopped, he would just say he was ten and he’d be back on his way. I asked him what I should say if we got stopped, and he said, no hesitation, that he’d just tell the officer that my 12 year old eyes were better than his 72 year old eyes and it was clearly a better risk to just let me go ahead and finish the drive and also we’re mostly there anyways. Oh, and twinkle toes (his name for me), don’t forget to smile.

A few years earlier this man, my grandpa, had driven that white ranger from Florida to Alaska. Alone. When I asked him which hotel was his favorite, he just laughed and laughed. When he finally caught his breath, he told me the finest hotel in the world couldn’t beat listening to the crickets and a sleeping bag laid out in the back of his truck.

When he finally made it to Alaska, there was a story about him getting cut off the road and his truck going down the side of a mountain. He was somehow able to climb out the back of the truck and back up the mountain with not much more than some bumps and bruises, on him and the truck.

To me, this man was a super hero.

There have been times when I’ve been scared to drive to a different part of town. There have been times when I have refused to drive because I didn’t know the way, I didn’t have a map, and I didn’t want to try.

There have been times when driving alone, in all that silence, just would not have been ok.

But the thing about my grandpa, when my grandpa wanted to go somewhere, he got in the car and just went.

Anywhere, everywhere. Gone.

The first long road trip I remember taking on my own (and with one small child) was from Florida to Maine. I plotted and charted. I packed blankets and snacks. Overnight bags and car chargers. I made plans with friends, family, all those who I hadn’t seen in years but would take me in, in a heartbeat.

I planned, then I went. I drove. I stopped on my terms. I stopped on the toddler’s terms. But I went.

I was aware, constantly, of being alone.

After two days, however, I found my “I’ve got this” face, and just had fun. I sang, we sang, I ate entire bags of gummy worms, blew through gobs of double bubble, threw disgusting amounts of chicken nuggets to my back seat driver, I missed exits and phone calls, and just drove.

And what a range of feelings this brought.

It reminded me first of the feeling when I was behind the wheel, at 12 years old, the feeling of being overwhelmed with a power of which I wasn’t yet ready, but was offered. Something that someone else recognized I could achieve, accomplish, or at the very least, TRY, even when it hadn’t even occurred to me that it was something I might want to do, love to do.

I had a feeling I could drive forever. Why stop at Maine, why stop at all?

I had a feeling that I wished I had tried this earlier. I wondered if these new acquaintances, these feelings of confidence and self-reliance, might stay for the long haul, and why had it taken so long for us all to meet?

So I drove. First cautiously. Then steadily. And ever so intentionally. And there was a solace in it, in that space of not worrying what might happen down the road or if I missed the next exit. I got lost a couple times, sure, but I was finally right where I needed to be- behind the wheel, listening for the crunch of gravel and the occasional cricket- and finally on the road towards my Alaska.