This is an odd sort of journey I am on. In some ways it’s better than I imagined because of the people I have met and and those I have re-met, but the original focus of the journey has been lost somewhere in the thousands of miles I have traveled.
I expected this trip to be sort of a sampler hike across the United States — driving a bit, camping, hiking, then taking off down the road for a couple of hours until I found another great place to camp and hike. I envisioned a spiritual journey, a deeper connection with the world and myself, but what I am getting is perhaps more precious — a deeper connection with people. It turns out that instead of occasionally visiting folks between bouts of camping, I have occasional bouts of camping between visiting folks. Not a bad trade-off.
Still, there are many times when I wonder if I am just spinning my wheels, traveling to no purpose. Yesterday was such a day. Although east Texas is vastly different from west Texas with shades of green rather than tones of taupe, the scene blurred after several hours, especially when, except for a few urban breaks, the view remained the same through northern Louisiana and Mississippi. And most especially when it rained, turning everything a misty gray.
I never expected to have days of driving such vast distances, never expected to drive in the rain, but what else was there to do? I couldn’t camp where I had planned in the piney woods of Texas, couldn’t even drive the roads I wanted because of flooding, so I took the high road. (There was still flooding, but the water had receded from the roadbed.) Every time I stopped to get a motel to wait out the rain, the rain stopped. So I continued, and so did the rain. Lots of rain.
I’d forgotten that not all places experience the long twilights of the west, so it came as a surprise that as soon as the sun set, it grew dark. And the rain got worse. And lightning and thunder came. And I got lost. I had gotten off the highway because a motel was supposed to be at that exit, but the motel turned out to be a mile down a narrow road, so I got back on the highway. Or so I thought. I ended up . . . I don’t know where.
Dark. Rain. Traffic. Yikes. Luckily, I found a place to turn around and somehow ended back on the interstate.
I did finally find a place for the night — an isolated motel with no gas station, store, or restaurant nearby. Only cows. The rain continued most of the night, and is still misting.
During that interminable drive, I let thoughts drift into and out of my mind, though as the miles and hours passed, the wheel-spinning thoughts came more frequently. And stayed. I wished I could go back to my father’s house. Wished even more I could go home to Jeff. Wished I knew what I was doing.
But my car wheels kept going around and around, taking me . . . somewhere.
Despite the rain and what could have been self-defeating thoughts, I did end up accomplishing something — I am now a scant 100 miles away from meeting a dear friend.
And so the wheel turns . . .
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)