Note: I've decided to cross-post my monthly newsletter articles here so that people new to All Souls can have easier access to them if they're not on the newsletter email list. Here is my article for May, 2010. I promise to try to be better about posting pithy comments and remarks.
“We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to take several road trips. To be sure, road trips generally take much longer than jetting about the skies from point A to point B, but there’s something mystical about them to me. Road trips require us to feel every mile. We cannot hop, skip and jump over the tedious parts, the pot-holed roads, the two lane back highways on which it seems every slow-moving tractor trailer is ahead of us. We must have patience on road trips. We must keep alert, watching not only the road ahead but also checking our rearview mirror and scanning the horizon to be safe.
Road trips remind us that we have the wheel, that we control our speed, our rest stops, the music that we listen to.
We can take solitary road trips, such as my most recent one to Albuquerque, NM for a district minister’s retreat, or have companions, such as the one Sam and I took en route to New Orleans. We can also have others who can share the driving load, as on the way home from New Orleans when Angela Sullivan and her son Draper teamed up with Sam and me.
All have benefits. Driving in solitude gives us time to reflect on our lives, where it is we’re truly headed and where we’ve been. Some of my most profound insights have been when I was driving a long distance alone.
Having a child along can remind us of our sacred responsibility to our children, to help guide them down the roads that will bring them hope and courage and their own desire to find their own paths, soon enough– all, too soon, in fact. Driving to New Orleans with Sam gave us the opportunity to simply be with one another, to have meaningful conversations, to hear about what’s important to him.
Sharing the driving with a friend can remind us that we don’t have to do everything, that burdens can be shared and, in the small, enclosed space of a car, stories can be shared, connections deepened. Oh, maybe I couldn’t sing along with the tunes on my iPod and Angela couldn’t listen to her beloved NPR talk radio programs, but we talked to one another and when one of us got tired of driving, the other took over.
And nature, herself unfolded to me in a way I would have missed at 30,000 feet in the air. Driving through the bayous of Louisiana on the final stretch to New Orleans, I noticed how the trees crowded up to the road, as if watching a parade, as if cheering me on in my journey. I honked the horn as we passed their waving, ebullient branches– my own greeting to them, my own acknowledgment of their mystery and their ability to continue on year after year.
And as the setting sun clocked out and the moon took up her post of watching over us as we sped along, I felt the vastness of space and time enfolding me, reminding me that I am a part of something much larger than my own petty concerns and gas receipts.
The clouds that filled the sky on my way home from Albuquerque showed off their incredible permutations– long, flat white clouds provided the background for the more cheery bands of popcorn clouds that puffed with pride in the foreground– almost 3D in their presentation, as if to say, “We are all clouds and we are all different and that is very good.”
And I saw, too, the many memorials along the different highways where someone’s life had come to a sudden, definitive end. On the way to Albuquerque, I saw a car parked on the shoulder of I-25, a couple embracing in front of two new memorials. I wondered about their loss and I wondered at the fragility, the impermanence of life; how all our plans and dreams can rest upon a single moment in time. I felt anew the desire, the necessity, of living life fully; of not putting off dreams for another day which I might not see.
And through all these road trips, I felt each bump of the road, I passed over every inch of my journey. There was not a moment on the trip that I missed. It is, to me, a powerful reminder of my life, of the need to resist the urge to fly over, fast forward through parts of my journey in an effort to reach my destination. It takes longer, to be sure, but the pace reminds me there is no destination other than this moment in which I exist, that the journey itself is home, and that life, whether in solitude or in the company of others is a grand adventure, if I only will creep out of my close and crowded house and open my eyes to the majestic beauties that daily wrap me in their bosom. May your own life be a grand adventure as well.