Some days the driving feels long. The highway stretches out before us and the view blurs as unspecified agriculture and isolated gas stations and the occasional state welcome sign fly past our windows.
These are good days for audiobooks and long conversations about crazy ideas and maybe, if I can talk Justin into it, playing DJ with every song I’ve ever loved (my inability to wait for a song to completely finish before I start the next one has lost me my DJ privileges on more than one occasion…but c’mon, how can I be expected to wait those final seconds when The Boxer is next in the cue and I am ready to belt out some serious lie la lies at the top of my lungs?!?!). On days like these, my whole world can shrink until all that feels real in the universe is encompassed in the cab of our truck.
A sort of amnesiac fog sets in. I know that there is a world out there and that I am part of it. There are trees and deserts and deep oceans and people engaged in the business of living. But all of that blurs like the Texaco station we passed at 70 miles per hour and is now fading in the rearview, a tiny blip in the distance. When we stop for a break and I unfold my body and step out into air that smells of fuel and exhaust and greasy fast food, I have to check in and re-orient myself to where and when we are in a scene so interchangeable with so many other whens and wheres.
So it goes. We drive along, the miles turning under our wheels, the highway scenery one long impressionist painting.
And then it will happen. We’ll come over a rise or around a bend and suddenly the world explodes back into our consciousness. Sometimes it’s the snowcapped Rockies after days of prairie skies. Or spotting a band of wild horses along Highway 50 in Nevada. Or the eerie stillness of the tufas rising from Mono Lake against a backdrop of the eastern Sierra.
Or, in this case, catching the exact moment before the sun dipped behind the mountains to cast the whole of the canyon in shadow, leaving only the silver ribbon of the river to reflect the sky in its shift from blue to pink to lavender to indigo. The reward for our miles traveled, the air to fill lungs we hadn’t realized were deficient, the ice water thrown on our sluggish souls, jolting us awake and setting our blood on fire.
Some days the driving feels long. We settle into the routines of our lives and we forget to pay attention to the scenery that has become invisible as we move through it day after day. But then we come around a bend or over a rise and some unexpected bit of resplendence is lying in wait. It hits us like a closed fist, knocks us out of our chairs, out of our sleep, out of our laziness, and we are suddenly wide awake once more.