Driving

“The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Don’t despise your own place and hour. Every place is the center of the world.”

John Burroughs

Driving along I-75, skirting Daniel Boone National Forest and the foothills of Appalachia, I shared the road with more fellow travelers than I’d anticipated. It was a Sunday, and I thought it would be just me out there. But no: lots of tractor-trailers and minivans and pickup trucks, all of us going wherever we were going in a great big hurry.

I had a pile of cds on the seat beside me. Yes, yes. Anachronism. Me and my media. One day cds may be charming, in the retrograde sort of way vinyl is today, but right now they brand me as a laggard on the great upgrade continuum. O well. It’s not like I’m the only one. Last month I went to a barn concert with my friend Claire, whose car — a Volvo station wagon, circa 1990 — features a cassette player. Cassettes are teetering on the edge of charming again, at least for a certain cohort, but like the mix-tape relationships they represent, they are fickle. When Claire inserted a tape and nothing happened, she pressed the eject button and discovered that her garage-sale Modest Mouse cassette had unspooled all over the insides of her player.

Anyway, driving. Listening to Tom Waits, to Nancy Griffith, to an old Putumayo sampler, having my emotions tugged this way and that by the sounds coming out of my speakers as the hills transformed from the deep blue of the early morning to lush dense green as the day wore on.

Driving is not meditative in any real sense. Too much is demanded of the body, of the senses; it is typically tiring, not revivifying. But it does allow a sort of suspension of the quotidian, holding you in that interstitial space between here and there for a nice bit of time. I often feel, when I’m driving a long distance, that some part of my brain will have things all figured out when I get to where I’m going.

It hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps I just need to drive a little farther. Just a little farther, still.

Advertisements