Saturday, December 10, 2005

On the Road

Yes, I did read Jack Kerouac's book.

And, no, this won't be anything like that.

Today I drove from Searcy to Memphis. When I was a child, it seemed a long, long trip. I usually read a book or sang (or argued) with my siblings en route.

As I grew older, it seemed a long, boring trip. Mile after mile of flat fields. One hill on the whole three-hour journey. I looked out the windows and dreamed of other things.

When I grew up, it didn't seem so long anymore. But still so flat and boring!

Well, maybe I'm only now starting to really grow up.

Because today, I saw the hawks over the fields, soaring in the wind. I stopped counting after five of them. I know they are probably looking for prey, but watching them, I can't help but think they are also just doing what they were made to do, "in the zone," feeling the wind under their wings and riding it out for the sheer joy of it.

I saw a flock of unidentifiable birds, hundreds of them, flying over a field, in constant motion as they changed places and created a new design every moment-- somehow remaining a unified whole all the while.

I saw the old, old oak trees, their trunks and limbs gnarled into shapes as fascinating as those the birds created. Their leaves catching fire as the evening sun shone on their golden and reddish browns.

I saw the sky mysteriously turn pink all at once, all around the horizon (a gift from those flat open fields.) Then, as I neared Memphis, the pink deepened into a beauty so intense that I thought I would have to stop the car, get out, face west, and sing "Holy, Radiant Light." And the white clouds stood out against the pink, with brushstrokes swirling them in all directions, as if swooshed by a giant paintbrush.

It was painful to enter West Memphis, with its converging highways, backed up traffic from construction, billboards, neon signs, asphalt and concrete and light poles everywhere. No more open fields, no more trees, not a welcoming place for wildlife.

On to the bridge, where I did see one last hawk soaring over the mighty Mississippi.

As I crossed the river, the pink of the sky was reflected on all the skyscrapers and buildings of the Memphis skyline. As if nature were saying, "See? I can make even you lifeless things beautiful, at least for a moment."

It makes me wonder how many other things I haven't been seeing all these years.

And what may be on the road ahead.

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