I've always loved long distance driving. There's this zone I get into somewhere during the third hour where whatever is rolling past my window starts triggering something in me. Stories, ideas, epiphanies start rolling around like those metal marbles in the old pin ball machines. Everything starts pinging and bouncing and ricocheting off each other and, before I know it, a story starts coming together in my head.
If I'm lucky, I can write it down after I get to where I'm going, get the bags in the hall, everyone settled. If I'm not, whatever came together on the drive usually burbles up later -- all incomplete sentences and mismatched images. I've learned that either process can work to a good purpose.
Rolling through tidewater Virginia this Sunday, the flat expanses of soy bean fields dotted with lone farmhouses, the shuttered "my uncle's old bar that was open for a couple years and seemed like a good idea," the converted mobile homes with the unhitched semi in the front yard -- all these things seemed vibrant to me. Who lives there? What are their lives like? Who is buried under that field, once a person who laughed and worried over the small events that make up all or our lives that once seemed so large or unsurpassable -- and are now as silent as dirt?
So many stories on one small stretch of road where I saw maybe 20 people outside of their cars in 100 miles. The young girl in day glo pink riding her motor bike around the corner of a house her black braids flying behind her like dark flames. An older man sitting tall on his tractor under an old straw hat, mowing the grass around his front field, still wearing his ironed clothes from church, his brown arms spinning the tractor surely as I might stir a pot. Even in this place, where I would never have the wisdom to look if I hadn't stumbledthere on a Sunday, there is so much going on.