The last few days were spent going half way across the country, heading east this time, for a few weeks on the eastern seaboard, the Maine coast, to be more exact. As you know, I love the open road, flying down the highway with Paul Simon, Lucinda Williams, or Alison Krauss riding shotgun in my CD player, my ears, my eyes, wide open; living this nomadic life that's always whispering in my ear.
Last Sunday morning I left Minnesota and drove across Wisconsin, spending the night somewhere near the southern border. I watched the Oscars, felt a bit unsettled by it all and then drifted off into fitful sleep. Early the next day I woke up to a dense fog. There might be a metaphor there, but I drove through it, down into Illinois. As the road stretched out and the sun rose, the fog lifted. Indiana, Ohio, and finally into one of my favorites, Pennsylvania. The western half of that state is especially beautiful. It is endless tree covered rolling hills; old farmstead after old farmstead with big red or white barns inside valley after valley. Occasionally the highway cuts through granite and I'm driving between rock walls for miles. It's wonderful, of course, during fall foliage time and I was fortunate enough to be able to plan my return trip last fall at its height. It was a little bleak this trip, but it's quite a treat to be able to see a place I love in yet another season. Summer still waits.
I made a decision a couple of months ago to hit the road sometime in March or April and head east. I could feel a new adventure forming. I'd been looking at places on the Atlantic Ocean during the off-season where rent is a little less expensive and yet I would still have a chance to walk on the beach, watch the sun on the waters of the Atlantic, and experience new light. I found a place on the web, one I was somewhat familiar with from previous visits to Maine. There was something I sensed about it that felt right. The few emails I exchanged with the owner of the rental I was considering were very warm and she had a good vibe, even through her emails. But, I decided to wait until I could see it in person, get a true feeling for the energy of the place and the community before I made a decision and locked myself into anything.
I wasn't sure when I would arrive at my destination. I wanted to spend time on the road that allowed me to enter this new time in my life gently and in peace. No pressure. Going to the beach should never involve pressure, no matter what time of year. Somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania I knew I was supposed to exit I-80 and head up to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, then east again towards Boston. I was drifting along thinking about the fact that I prefer blue highways, when time allows, and I had not yet gone down any roads where photos could easily be taken, where I could stop and take in the surroundings effortlessly. Just as I made this wish, I missed my exit north. I kept going. I stopped at a rest area farther down the road where I could take a gander at the atlas and see what my options were. I saw that not too far up the road, there was a highway heading in the direction I needed to be going that took me along the Delaware River and the wetlands that run alongside it. It looked very enticing and I knew that was the way. I wanted to take photos, perhaps of an old farmstead similar to the ones I had looked at longingly as I zipped down the interstate. I didn't have far to go before my wish was granted.
I exited at Stroudsburg and headed northeast, along the Delaware Water Gap, forty miles of pure magic. The narrow road winds through trees that join hands as they hang over the road, pulling you further into its beauty. The sunlight took on a soft, all encompassing glow. It looked like the whole world was lit up by this effusive Light. And, it felt as good as it looked. A few miles down the road, sitting up on a ridge overlooking the road and the fields on the other side, was a huge white barn with a couple of stone buildings and an old abandoned house. You know me and old abandoned houses, we get along very well. I drove by, then realized it was my opportunity, and a beautifully packaged gift. I looked for a place to turn around, drove back a mile or so, and up into the driveway.
One house, barely a shell of old gray clapboards, sat down near the bottom of the ridge. Trees knotted themselves around each corner, framing it as though it had gotten ready to have its picture taken. It looked alive; old, but alive. One window had weathered green shutters still intact, the sole survivors.
The barn sat a bit further up the ridge. Several red vents were set along the L-shaped roof line. They were quite a sight against that stark blue sky. In places, branches seemed to have become part of the structure itself, entwined along the windows and door frames, embedded in the outer walls. The closer I got and the further I walked around it, the more it revealed itself to me. It just got better and better. There wasn't just one, but two silos made out of dark brown ceramic tiles. I had never seen silos made out of this material. They seemed so strong and sure of their place in the world.
The original main house was made out of field stone, with windows shuttered in white. It was a nice contrast against the stonework. A couple of trees were lolly-gagging around one corner of the house. They'd been doing so for a long time. I took picture after picture. I was in heaven.
About an hour later, I finally pulled myself away and drove on. I felt peaceful and grateful. It was exactly what I had asked for.
That afternoon, I passed Lowell, Massachusetts, where Jack Kerouac was born and where he is buried. I sent out a little prayer and promised him I'd stop to visit my next time through. The road unfolded before me in quiet beauty.