The Roads I Have Traveled: A Moment With Bill Reflection
Life Is a Journey
A tired cliché if there ever was one but still, true. From the moment we emerge from the womb, kicking and screaming, to that final moment when our hearts beat their last beat, we are on the road trip of life. We make decisions, we respond to stimuli, we bounce about to and fro, some moves calculated and some merely unconscious reactions.
Imagine your body as the body of a sleek roadster. Your mind is the engine and your heart the transmission, propelling you forward as each year passes. There are slick roads to be sure; there are potholes no doubt; there are also long stretches of road where all is smooth and the wind is at your back, allowing you to use cruise control for a great portion of the trip.
We do the proper maintenance. We periodically check our fluid levels. We check our tires for proper tread. We make sure those brake pads are functioning properly and we keep our eyes on the gauges for any signs of trouble…but still….there are days when we hear strange sounds coming from the engine, and there are days when for no apparent reason our car breaks down and we need a tow.
And finally there comes a day when no amount of maintenance will fix our ills and we find ourselves heading for that great salvage yard in the sky.
Come with me as I look at the roads I have traveled. Buckle up that seatbelt and get comfortable. I’m a good driver so relax and enjoy the ride.
The Obvious Highways of Life
See this map here? These are the places I have visited. There are so many places I have yet to see, and hopefully time will allow me to see them.
Born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. One day in 1979 my wife and I decided it would be interesting to live in New England, so we packed up our bags and headed for a two-year stay in Vermont. Cross-country we went, young and clueless about the risks being taken and the losses to be incurred. It was an adventure and that was enough for us.
Two years teaching in Oregon, one year teaching in Alaska, thirty-eight states visited and hundreds of thousands of miles of pavement traversed. Toss in several trips to Canada, two trips to Mexico, the random journeys to Yellowstone, Big Sur, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, the Smoky Mountains and on and on. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with tears in my eyes; watching the sun rise from atop Mount Rainier after a successful ascent; feeling the wind in my hair and music in my heart as I waded into the Missouri River, body-surfed the Pacific, and rafted the Deschuttes.
I have always gravitated towards the back roads, those little two-lane paths that led through farmland and backwater towns, seeing the real America and not the Madison Avenue illusion. I will stop along the side of the road, lay beneath a willow and watch the clouds drift by. I will eat at greasy diners and listen to the locals talk about crop prices and the approaching weather. I will sit in rapture as I witness the everyday activities of people from different backgrounds who share so many similarities with me.
Sleep beneath the stars under the Big Sky of Montana and dare to wonder about life’s answers. Gaze upon the seemingly endless horizons of Kansas as the wheat bends in the wind and the swallows frolic in a nearby hayloft. Talk to a Cajun in New Iberia Parish, debate with a blueblood in Boston, toss a Frisbee with a small child in Lafayette Park, and shout out in glee as the Northern Lights reflect upon the snow in Fairbanks; those memories and so many more are mine to call upon as I sit in my studio on a rainy, windy January day in Olympia.
The Not-so-obvious Highways
Moving from the concrete to the ethereal, we have those journeys traveled, not physically, but rather emotionally and psychologically.
The journey from childhood to the teens and then adulthood; the journey from single status to married status; the journey from irresponsible to parenthood; these are sojourns that cannot be found on a map but are still very real.
We say “I do” but then we don’t. We accept the schooling and then the training, always preparing for that next career move up ahead. We jockey for position along the rail in hopes to cut down the distance around the track, only to find we had planned on six furlongs when in fact the race was a mile, or we planned on a mile and forgot to sprint when the race was unexpectedly shortened.
Take a job here, take a job there, move to a nicer neighborhood, sink into debt chasing the American Dream, call the boss an asshole and have no dream at all.
And then there are the manufactured dreams, the delusional illusions brought on by alcohol and drugs. We choose excess and we choose deprivation. We embrace philosophical or we embrace the physical rush. We go the path of the caregiver or we go the path of the taker. We are the prey or the hunter, the light of hope or the shadow of darkness. We are the culmination of thousands of causes and effects, and we are randomness personified.
All on the journey of life.
And Then the Road Ends
“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it - memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.”
After sixty-five years I am fully aware that my own personal journey is drawing to a close. Will there be a warning? Will the “check engine” light come on letting me know there is a breakdown that is imminent, or will I simply round a curve and have no more pavement before me? I could “live” with the first option: I could “live harder” with the second.
It’s been one hell of a trip. I can say without hesitation that I have not been cheated, and I guaran-damn-tee that I will not be cheated in the time I have left. There are still some miles left in this car of mine. The engine is purring and the transmission is still shifting smoothly. I am thrilled that I still have opportunities ahead of me. I am ecstatic that there will be other willows to lay under, that there will be other lakes to float in, that there will be other natural wonders to bow down before.
Keep your eyes peeled on the horizon. You just might see me coming up your driveway in the near future, and I’ll come bearing gifts. I promise you the gift of a smile. I promise you the gift of friendship. And I promise to infect you with the sense of wanderlust that has always been my companion.
The Beatles can finish this as well, if not better, than I can.
“I was alone, I took a ride, I didn’t know what I would find there.”
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)