Momentum. Forward motion. Moving.
I have been thinking about the act quite a bit lately as I have been guiding my car through back roads and highways, my feet along cattle trails and off to cut my own path. The act of moving forward, in any capacity, whether it’s walking, riding or driving, is what I envision the stream of consciousness to look like: sweaty, breathing, flushed, meandering or running in a straight line following a bird, a path, a rainbow or nothing in particular.
Because there is something about covering ground that propels not only your body, but your mind. It frees it up a bit, opens it. And even when there is somewhere else to be, a dot at the end of the map, a destination, there is something about the space between point A and point B that takes on a life of its own entirely–the space where you can’t go anywhere but forward. Where time ticks away with the miles.
I drove across the state on Tuesday. 350 or so miles from the northeast corner to west. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the wind was blowing across the flat landscape. The road I was following was completely unfamiliar to me as I headed in the direction of home. I had my radio blaring familiar music, music that I could sing along with and softly I mumbled through words I have forgotten only to crescendo as I was reminded of the ones I always knew. I rolled down the windows. I sipped coffee. I adjusted and readjusted my visor and my sunglasses. I put a stick of gum in my mouth.
My mind wandered and I found myself back on all of the unfamiliar roads I have traveled during the time I was on the road with work and music. In pieces those moments flashed in and out of my memory–the toll booths on my way from Fargo to Chicago in the early daylight hours, my eyes heavy from the unexpected miles. The long stretches of yellow lines on the interstate in Kansas. The blacktop backroads on my way to a small Wisconsin college town. The bridges that confused me in Green Bay. The antelope infested stretch in South Dakota. The mountains that unexpectedly jutted out as I hit Boise. The white-out road that welcomed me home to North Dakota and forced me to spend one spring night in my car along the interstate.
While I remembered parts of my life that weren’t significant enough to make it out of my mouth and into stories to friends and family, the miles carried me forward and turned me onto a highway I have taken home hundreds of times. And while I sped between its straight lines it was as if someone was playing DJ and handpicking the soundtrack that came through the car speakers and into my conscious to help me replay the events I moved away from and back into during the time I spent on the pavement that stretched out in front of me. Pavement I haven’t been on for years. The songs and the road and the setting sun bounced off of my aviator glasses as I thought of beer, coffeehouse gigs, sidewalks in my college town, movie theatre trips to pass the time, crying from pure loneliness, a future naively hopeful and wanting so bad to be somewhere else.
My tires hummed along as I watched the sun dip down a little further, changing from gold to pink to red and I thought about the idea of wishing to be gone. How I used to exist in that thought, in that wish, so passionately. Driving toward the horizon I suddenly felt a little uneasy, like I needed to begin constructing plans for what was next. That I couldn’t just move through the miles thinking about what could have been, but concentrate on what is now and what could be so great.
I started constructing plans for what was next. Ideas passed through my mind like a slide show, progressing with each mile marker, playing themselves out as the sky turned from red to black and headlights flashed in my eyes. But by the time the landscape started to roll a bit, after I crossed the big lake and the road began to wind the unease calmed and I settled into my thoughts, sorted them out in my head, planted some and let others fly away when I flung open the doors of my car to breathe in the familiar air of the ranch–wet grass and dirt and horse hair.
When my husband and I moved to the ranch when we were first married, we weren’t ready to be here. We weren’t ready to plant our lives. We had more to see, more to do and be. We didn’t understand yet that we did not have to hang up our wings to exist on this landscape.
And the best thing we could do for ourselves make the decision to leave. Because time was always something we understood. Time and the knowledge that only we have the power to change the way we feel, the way we live.
So we left. That dream we had since we were twelve or thirteen was staring us in the face, but our arms weren’t open, so we left it there, alone.
To know that you can always move, to know that you have an option of a road, an option of your feet to take you where you don’t even know you need to go is one of the greatest freedoms. That is what my husband taught me.
That is what we taught each other.
That we can always move. That we have hands to hold and feet and roads that are there to lead us anywhere we want to go.
And those hands, those feet, that longing to fly, those same roads brought us back here. When we were ready. When we understood that sometimes freedom isn’t always about leaving…
sometimes freedom is choosing to stay.